DUST is an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), an immersive story in which players interact with a fictional world by using real world media and skills to do it. The interactive experience unfolds across multiple platforms, including cell phones, social media sites, printed texts, museums, and the Web as players work together to unravel a mystery that they could not tackle successfully on their own.

When a meteor shower disperses mysterious clouds of dust into the earth's atmosphere, adults worldwide fall unconscious, leaving teens to take matters into their own hands to search for answers that will save their parents' lives.

Players are invited to help by gathering and analyzing data, connecting and comparing ideas, and proposing solutions as they apply their existing and emerging real-world skills to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, Brigham Young University, the University of Maryland, and Tinder Transmedia have partnered with NASA scientists to develop a transformative online learning experience that encourages teens to explore, analyze, and engage in STEM-based learning.

DUST ran as a live game in Winter 2015, but is being repurposed as a standalone game that an educator could run with a class or after-school club. This replayable version will be available later in 2015. Sign up below to be notified when it is released.



Science applications like the Space Rover will engage teens in problem solving and analytical thinking exercises that focus on the sciences.


Lab applications like the DNA Splicing Tool will encourage students to gather information, develop and test hypotheses, and pull data from real-world environments.


Interactive forums will allow students to collaborate with their peers, using scientific inquiry and the engineering design cycle as a standard for discussion and analysis.

Each scenario in the DUST game will include one or more player activities that have been mapped to the relevant inquiry skills found in Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) based on the K–12 Science Education Framework created by the National Research Council. As players explore the origins and phylogeny of the microscopic extremophiles that have been carried to earth aboard the meteor, for example, their investigations will be tied to NGSS MS-LS4 and HS-LS4, Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity; and MS-ESS1 and HS-ESS1, Earth's Place in the Universe. A suite of augmented reality apps developed by the production team will support players' research endeavors. These include a mobile brain scanning app, a Mars rover web app, a microbe experimentation tool, and more. A collaborative scientific inquiry platform will serve as a virtual gathering place and central repository for sharing, aggregating, analyzing, and reporting on data.

Some of the anticipated learning outcomes include the following:

  • Players practice and/or improve their application of scientific inquiry skills;
  • Players demonstrate increased awareness of their scientific inquiry skills through game play (i.e. they recognize they are using them when playing the games);
  • Players demonstrate increased engagement with STEM concepts across different media channels (e.g., print, video, websites, social media);
  • Players demonstrate increased knowledge of the deep-time sciences, especially astronomy and biology.


Please help us spread the word to other educators and students using the downloads available below.
The FAQ and Brochure are aimed at other educators, while the poster images are meant to be shared in public places like on classroom doors, in media centers, etc.