since 1965  (really?)

Space: An Applied Chemistry Role-Playing Game

This course listing applies to a Spring 2016 course. To find current courses, check out the Find a Course page.

Spring 2016
Chemistry 98/198
1 Unit(s)



About the Course:

Time/Location: Wednesdays 6-8 pm, Hildebrand Hall 100D (Chemistry Library)


Kelsey Sakimoto

Andrew Wong

Office hours (315 Hildebrand) by appointment.

Instructor of Record:

Michelle Douskey

307 Latimer Hall (Office hours by appointment)


            Whether driven by an insatiable curiosity or by a terrible necessity, humanity is destined to explore space. While many organizations such as NASA, ESA and SpaceX aim to build permanent settlements on Mars and on even more distant celestial bodies, the crucial technological challenges of self-sufficient living in space and on extraterrestrial planets remain unsolved. The principles of chemistry (and related sciences) are poised to address many of these issues: resource extraction and manufacturing, food production, atmospheric control, energy harvesting, waste management and recycling, health and medicine, amongst an endless list of other challenges presented by a closed-ecosystem. In this course, we will explore and formulate applied chemical solutions to such problems.


            The format of this course will be somewhat unusual. Rather than pure lectures or discussion sections, we will employ a problem-based learning game mechanic based on adventure role-playing games. In the spirit of table top games like Dungeons & Dragons, or video games such as the Mass Effect series, each of you will take command of a fictitious space crew tasked with living in/surviving and exploring space. Each session, you will be presented with a series of survival scenarios to which you must devise a technological solution using only the resources at hand, with the instructors as both guide and antagonist. Throughout this journey, you will work both individually and as small teams to overcome these challenges. Preparation for each session will be discretionary: consultation and review of general chemical principles (from previous courses and experience), literature review, or provided readings. In the last few weeks of the course, the tables will be turned, and you must tackle obstacles generated and facilitated by your peers.


            By the end of this course, you should be well equipped to engage in scientific problem solving, applying knowledge from the scientific literature to formulate solutions to modern issues. The aim is to develop a skill set suited for research-based careers in a way not normally covered by traditional science curriculum, as well as nurture a scientific problem solving ethic. More specifically, you will gain a better understanding of, and motivation to solve, challenges associated with space travel and living.


            Each of you will be responsible for the survival and well-being of a 100-person crew. At the resolution of each scenario, casualties will be assessed depending on the ability of the proposed applied chemical solution to adequately address the challenge. A passing grade will be given to students with at least 50% of their crew surviving at the end of the course.

Text, Readings and Resources:

            No textbooks are formally assigned. This course will draw upon previous chemical knowledge, as well as make liberal use of primary scientific literature. Any essential readings will be provided.


            This course assumes some previous knowledge of (general) chemistry at the college freshman level. Completion or concurrent enrollment in a general chemistry course (1AB or 4AB) preferred. Please consult with the instructor if you are unsure.

 Course Schedule:

Date/Session Title

1/20 Course Introduction and Mission Briefing

1/27 “Breathe”: Essential Life Support Systems I

2/03 “Drink”: Essential Life Support Systems II

2/10 “Gather”: In situ Resource Collection and Manufacturing

2/17 “Grow”: Food Production I

2/24 “Eat”: Food Production II

3/02 “Shine”: Energy Collection and Storage I

3/09 “Charge”: Energy Collection and Storage II

3/16 “Cure”: Health and Medicine

Spring Break

3/30 “Renew”: Waste Management and Recycling

4/06 Student generated scenarios I

4/12 Student generated scenarios II

4/19 Student generated scenarios III

4/26 Course Debrief and Wrap-up

How to Enroll:

Enrollment will be on a first come, first served basis. CCNs for 98 and 198 can be found on the Online Schedule of Classes. We will sort out final enrollment on the first day of class, including those waitlisted.

Course Contact: kelsey.sakimoto AT

Faculty Sponsor: Michelle Douskey

Time & Location:

Section 1[?]
Kelsey Sakimoto
32100D HildebrandW 6p-8p1/20full

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Course info last modified December 7, 2015. This page has been viewed 2854 times.

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