Exploring the Universe from Antarctica

The goal of this project is to promote informal STEM education in polar research through a novel interactive learning display that uses virtual and augmented reality technology. A new display system will be developed that combines the successful techniques of touch-enabled tabletop displays with new low-cost, head-mounted display technology to deliver an immersive 3D learning experience for the IceCube Neutrino Detection system located at the South Pole. The system will provide new means for engaging the public in learning about the IceCube Neutrino Dectection system and the challenges of Antarctic research.

The proposal relies on collaboration between three groups on the University of Wisconsin- Madison campus, including the Living Environments Laboratory (LEL), the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC), and the Games Learning Society (GLS).

Once developed, the display system will be installed at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Town Center, a public space that attracts close to 50,000 people per year.

This proposal was submitted as an Exploratory Pathways proposal, meaning that it represents a chance to establish the basis for future research, design, and development of innovations or approaches. Outcomes from this project will inform the PIs of how best to extend the system to add more 3D environments for other research locations in Antarctica. The system will be implemented in an extensible fashion so that a user can select from one of several Antarctic research station locations, not just IceCube, from the main menu of the system and suddenly be immersed in a 3D world that seeks to teach users about polar research at that location. Contents of the interactive learning display will be translated into Spanish, and users will be able to choose which language they want to use. Evaluations of the system will also inform designers about how these museum-type systems impact learning outcomes for the general public.

This project was submitted to the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, but will be funded by the Division of Polar Programs. AISL seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.


David Gagnon



Project Website



Completed on June 30, 2018

Contact Information

Sarah Gagnon