Students’ knowledge of “inner space” could help keep astronauts alive in outer space in HudsonAlpha’s serious game Touching Triton, which was launched to a national audience this fall.

Developed by HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach team, Touching Triton brings together the excitement of outer space with the field of human genomics, which Vice President for Educational Outreach Neil Lamb, PhD, calls “inner space.” Students who play the online game build an understanding of common complex disease risk, influenced by factors from family history, environment and genomic data. Players synthesize data from these sources to inform lifestyle choices and medical intervention strategies in the setting of a long-duration space flight mission.

Lockheed Martin has supported the project through its development and presented a $20,000 check to HudsonAlpha at an event at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala., in August.

“It is an exciting game that gets kids involved in space exploration and the genomics that go into keeping astronautics safe,” said Jim Rogers, Lockheed Martin vice president of Government Affairs. “Our support of HudsonAlpha and Touching Triton is a great way to invest in inspiring, exciting and educating kids about deep space.”

Lockheed Martin’s financial support helped Educational Outreach introduce Touching Triton to educators at the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) annual conference, held this year in Denver.

At that conference, Lockheed Martin and HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach team celebrated the national launch of Touching Triton with a breakfast for teachers and presentations and workshops led by HudsonAlpha and Lockheed Martin. The team introduced teachers to the game, took a closer look at human space flight and modern genomics and highlighted educator resources for Touching Triton.

“Hundreds of educators from across the country were engaged by HudsonAlpha staff about Educational Outreach and Touching Triton during the conference,” said Adam Hott, EdD, an Educational Outreach team member who has led the development of the serious game. “Some of us were even engaged outside of a session or the exhibit booth as ‘the Touching Triton people.’ ”

Touching Triton was nominated for a national Serious Games Showcase & Challenge Award in 2015 and was featured in the national educational journal American Biology Teacher this year. Since 2015, more than 5,000 students in the Southeastern United States have completed the game. The activity was made possible by grants from Lockheed Martin and a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more and play the free game at triton.hudsonalpha.org.

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