Ka Chun Yu, PhD

Dr. Yu studies the most effective ways to use visualizations of astronomical datasets in both immersive and non-immersive settings, for education, as well as for inspiring and exciting the public.  He also works on software tools for efficiently creating scientific visualizations.

  • POSITIONCurator of Space Science
  • EXPERTISE Immersive virtual environments
  • PhD

    University of Colorado at Boulder

  • PHONE NUMBER303.370.6394
  • EMAIL[email protected]
  • RESUME Click to Download
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  • 1

    Yu, K.C., Sahami, K., & Denn, G., 2010, "Student Ideas About Kepler's Laws and Planetary Orbital Motions," Astronomy Education Review, in press.

  • 2

    Yu, K.C. 2009. "Digital Planetariums for Geology and Geography Education: Earth Visualizations at the Gates Planetarium," The Planetarian, 36(3), 6-12, 64.

  • 3

    Yu, K.C., Williams, K., Neafus, D., Gaston, L., & Downing, G. 2009. "Gaia Journeys: A Museum-based Immersive Performance Exploration of the Earth," International Journal of Digital Earth, 2(1), 44-58.

  • 4

    Reipurth, B., Yu, K.C., Moriarty-Schieven, G., Bally, J., Aspin, C., & Heathcote, S. 2004. "Deep Imaging Surveys of Star-Forming Clouds. I. New Herbig-Haro Flows in NGC 2264," Astronomical Journal, 127, 1069-1080.

  • 5

    Neafus, D. and Yu, K.C. 2007. "Performing and Visual Arts, the Sciences: Visualization Brings Them Together at the Gates Planetarium", The Planetarian, 36(3)


Astronomy Learning in Immersive Virtual Environments (ALIVE)

Immersive digital planetariums are touted as powerful tools for education. However, there haven't been many studies to find out how truly effective they are. Dr. Ka Chun Yu, curator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, in collaboration with Metropolitan State College of Denver, is finishing up a five-year project to study how college-level astronomy classes, and hopefully other education programs, can be improved using the scientific visualizations at digital planetariums.

The study focuses on seven topics commonly taught in introductory astronomy classes: phases of the moon, seasons and length of day, Kepler's Laws and orbital motions, scale and structure of the solar system, outer planet moon systems, and distances to the stars and galaxies. Interviews were held with incoming students so Dr. Yu and his team could pinpoint the misconceptions students had about these topics. The information helped the team develop a series of test questions to evaluate how much astronomy knowledge was gained and retained.

After that, visualization models for each of the seven teaching topics were developed, and the introductory astronomy classes were divided into three groups. Group I saw no visualizations, Group II saw visualizations in the classroom, and Group III traveled to Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to see immersive visualizations within the digital dome.

Continued analysis between the three groups along with student demographics will allow Dr. Yu to determine the effects of the visualizations as well as the impact of immersion.

"We'll learn if a digital planetarium dome can actually make it easier to learn astronomy concepts. What we find out could have a very important impact on how we educate students in science," said Dr. Yu.

The Worldviews Network is a new, NOAA-funded nationwide collaboration of scientists, artists, and educators developing best practices for using immersive virtual environments for ecological literacy education using live presentations, interactive scientific visualizations, and community sustainability dialogues.

The Worldviews Network core team consists of representatives from the DMNS, California Academy of Sciences, NOVA/WGBH in Boston, The Elumenati, and the NOAA Climate Program Office.

The genesis behind the Worldviews Network is partially the result of several different key phenomena:

  • We are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological era dominated by human-induced processes.  Human-driven global change is occurring faster than ever before.
  • At the same time, technologies for obtaining and visualizing bio- and geospatial data are also advancing rapidly.  New satellite platforms are giving us maps of global phenomena at multiple wavelengths, and beaming it back to us in near real-time.  New visualization techniques and software are allowing this data to be displayed and interpreted.
  • Information deficit models for educating the public about global change (including climate change) have not been successful.  These assume that people are merely information-deficient about global and environmentall change issues; once they are informed, then we can expect them to act on this information.  However multiple studies have shown that this does not necessarily occur.

The Worldviews Network uses a different approach, by combining interactive real-time immersive visualizations that are possible within modern digital planetariums, and a See-Know-Do approach to create education that integrates visual, systems, and design thinking, that allows audiences to visualize, comprehend, and address complex issues from a whole systems perspective:

  • Seeing: View visualizations about cosmic, solar system, and global Earth systems science that tie large-scale processes to regional environmental issues, and to show the complexity of global change.
  • Knowing: Comprehend the scientific understanding of complex Earth systems, and understand how they operate and influence each other in culturally relevant ways.
  • Doing: Address complex issues from a whole systems perspective by engaging ecological literacy organizations, and using design tools to implement regional solutions to global change issues.

More information about the Worldviews Network will be upcoming on this and the official site, www.worldviews.net.

Click here to watch A Global Water Story.


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