National Geographic Channel, 2010
Users create an elaborate universe complete with a variety of planets with customizable masses, trajectories, and atmospheres. If you craft your universe carefully, everything will work in harmony. Planets will orbit the main star or each other — life can even develop on certain planets. If you make one mistake? Catastrophe.
How do you demonstrate to visitors the fundamentals of what it takes to build a functioning solar system, its unforeseeable dangers and its lifespan throughout eons of existence? We needed to devise an interactive learning tool that lived up to National Geographic's reputation for scientific excellence while appealing both to die-hard science fiction fans and the average web surfer.
We developed the "Solar System Builder" interactive that allows users to create an elaborate universe complete with a variety of planets with customizable masses, trajectories, and atmospheres. The programming of the interactive would adhere truthfully to the science of the solar system. If the user crafts their solar system carefully, everything will work in harmony. The audience member is able to select a type of sun for the center of their solar system and customize its size. Then they can choose their planet types to transform. Planets orbit the main star, smaller planets may become moons of larger ones, and on some worlds life could even develop. Even the most stable planetary orbit doesn't prevent destruction at the hands of meteors, neighboring planets on a collision course, or the constant pull of the Sun.
The "Solar System Builder" has been considered a gold standard interactive by the National Geographic Channel. The visual aesthetics of the interactive fit perfectly into the overall style of the "Known Universe" series. The ongoing impact of the "Solar System Builder" is reflected by its long-term popularity within the marketing and Flash community. The "Solar System Builder" has been awarded a Silver Addy at the Philadelphia Addy Awards in March 2011 demonstrating the interactive's ability to captivate and educate its audience. The award and a nod from the Rachel Maddow show has also drawn attention to National Geographic Channel's web presence as a real player in the arena of the Flash interactive.