Exploring Space and Science Fiction at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2024

by Shireen Dooling

LightCube engineering model with chapstick for scale.

The ASU Interplanetary Initiative team made a significant impact at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2024 this past weekend. Stationed in the ASU area of the convention’s Science section, the team engaged attendees over three days. Undergraduate students from the Interplanetary Lab shared their unique experiences working on cubesat missions, a rare opportunity for undergraduates. They showcased the engineering model of a recent cubesat project, LightCube, attracting considerable interest. Additionally, the team distributed free swag and information about the Interplanetary Initiative’s Technological Leadership undergraduate degree program and online professional education programs in SciTech Space Leadership and Satellite Operations

Dr. Eric Stribling, Assistant Teaching Professor with the Interplanetary Initiative, participated in two panels discussing his contributions to the initiative’s mission. During his Saturday panel titled “Becoming a Technology Superhero,” Dr. Stribling was among four teaching professionals addressing education in the modern technological era. He discussed the advantages of gamifying content for online learning, highlighting an innovative approach where students navigate a non-linear storyline to grasp lesson concepts. This method, akin to the interactive storytelling of the Goosebumps series but in a digital format, utilizes an open-source platform called Twine, which empowers educators to craft engaging, customizable digital narratives for their curriculum.  

On Sunday’s panel, Dr. Stribling collaborated with Amanda Kehrberg, a Ph.D. Student and Graduate Assistant at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The discussion centered around “accessibility,” starting with a compelling video from their YouTube channel, “Space for Humans,” which Dr. Stribling and Amanda co-founded and actively contribute to. This channel seeks to emphasize the criticality of inclusive design in shaping our future space endeavors. 

Their presentaTheir presentations highlighted crucial aspects such as learning from historical contexts and incorporating feedback from community and local sources of knowledge. Amanda spotflighted the ongoing evolution of Space for Humans, mentioning how she actively integrates audience feedback to enhance the viewing experience on their YouTube channel. Dr Stribling’s focal point was on the necessity of avoiding a singular “Reference Man” archetype in design processes, stressing the importance of incorporating diverse viewpoints and perspectives from groups, engineers and creators. This inclusion of multiple perspectives is the only way to design for our next chapter in space exploration.

The Interplanetary Initiative had a fantastic time engaging with numerous community members who find inspiration in science, technology, math and engineering due to the influence of pop culture and science fiction. We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

Day one outreach team at the Phoenix Fan Fusion event! From left to right, Huy, Sid, Ysabella – (front), Brooke, and Ben.
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