HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Technology can help make even the most abstract concepts-like algebra or physics-engaging and easier to understand.
In an effort to make science more palatable, local NASA engineer, Dr. Rob Adams built Paratus Universe, an immersive, space simulator fabricated with exact science and authentic images of outer space.
The simulators, built to travel to arcades, classrooms, and conventions, aim to educate and entertain students and Hard Science Fiction enthusiasts. The stationary, 3-seat, multi-screen machine features many of the same controls real pilots use.
“Paratus is the closest thing to experiencing space without leaving the ground. Paratus Universe is a mobile spacecraft simulator that travels to game stores, conventions, schools, and events. Players use controls designed by engineers in the space industry, and they view stars and planets using actual footage from prior missions. The simulator and controls use accurate physics to model motion,” says Adams.
The simulator’s story-line follows the “Exo-Atmospheric Corps”, a fictional U.S. organization that keeps peaces and explores space in an alternate reality, patterned after the U.S. Coast Guard. The U.S. Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus, Latin for Always Ready; the Exo-Corps’s motto is Ad Astra Parata, Latin for Ready for the Stars.
A pilot, navigator, and commander work together in the three-player simulator to achieve the mission goals. New missions are to be introduced quarterly.
Players receive a 15 minute experience that consists of a 3-4 minute training session on the mission and controls, followed by a 9 minute simulation experience and a two minute debriefing.
A seat on an Exo-Atmospheric Corps mission costs $15.
“Our target market is Hard Science Fiction fans high school age and up. More specifically we are targeting a subset of those fans that we can easily market to through their local game stores, conventions, and schools. We expect a simulator to be on the road 6 days a week: at schools during the weekday, at game stores and other events on weekday nights, and at a local convention on the weekends. On the seventh day the simulator is in the depot, undergoing regular maintenance,” says Adams.
Adams will schedule events at locations within a two-hour driving distance from Huntsville.
He currently has one functioning simulator, but he says is on track to build 50 by 2021.
The 50 simulators will be placed in locations where there are approximately 4 million people living within a 2 hour driving distance says Adams.
The first simulator is scheduled for two events in Huntsville this November.
“Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Nashville are all within a two hour driving distance to Huntsville and their combined populations total well over 4 million, and Huntsville’s the birthplace of space exploration,” says Adams.
He expects to have a half-dozen events scheduled through the end of this year.
In his business model, Paratus Universe simulators travel to game stores each quarter, as new missions are released.
In order to gain a following at game stores, he wants to create a community by organizing squadrons out of Paratus players-one squadron per game store.
“We intend to have a monthly meeting at the game store where we will explore a tactical situation on maps (essentially a board game) with the squadron members,” says Adams.
Adams said the inspiration for Paratus Universe started when he and several other friends had the idea to build a simulator in the Space Opera genre, a category of science fiction that concentrate on more on a story-line rather than factual science.
But, Adams argued to his friends that the space opera marketplace was over-served and better opportunity lie in Hard Sci-Fi.
“There are two categories of science fiction: Hard Sci-Fi and Space Opera. Hard Sci-Fi fans like elements of science in their story, like Star Trek, or recent movies like The Martian, Interstellar, and Gravity. The other half of science fiction is Space Opera. These stories concentrate on the narrative and don’t worry if story elements are based in fact, just that they are consistent throughout the story. Star Wars is the most widely known example of Space Opera,” says Adams.
Adams knew the simulator could be more than another entertainment outlet for Sci-Fi junkies and engineers. He knew the marketplace for experiential learning was growing, after selling he and his wife sold their business- MindGear Labs- a public, rapid pro-typing lab in Huntsville.
“Over the five years we were in business we developed a number of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics classes for local school systems, after school programs and summer camps. In 2017, we sold the business to a local non-profit which is still operating using our business model,” says Adams.
In addition to MindGear Labs, Adams’s 25-years of experience in the space industry and his four engineering degrees provided him a the knowledge to engineer a simulator with more exact science than any other Hard Sci-Fi game. Adams has a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from UAB and a MS in Aerospace Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from UAH, and most of the master’s degree requirements in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee.
In 2017, Adams and several others began building Paratus Universe. Since then, he has personally invested a little over six-figures in the business and has had over 30 different people work on perfecting the simulator.
He says the biggest hurdle he faces is marketing. The simulator has received positive reviews in beta testing, but in order to gain a following outside the Sci-Fi community, Adams is looking for new ways to connect with non-traditional players such as high school students.
Part of the effort includes launching a KickStarter to raise additional funds and promote Paratus Universe.
After he raises the necessary funds to grow the business to 50 simulators, Adams says each simulator is projected to earn nearly $1 million in revenue a year.
To learn more information about Paratus Universe and where you play, visit their website.