Want to Control the Air? NASA Introduces Mobile App

Sector 33 is a new air traffic control mobile game for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

NASA Ames scientists have been busy lately—playing.

Developers with the research center's "Smart Skies" classroom product announced Tuesday the release of their first educational mobile game app called Sector 33, which give users the ability to simulate being an air traffic controller guiding airplanes through a sector of airspace from Nevada and California.

"Our hope is that Sector 33 will give students a sense of the importance of math in managing our nation's air traffic and, at the same time, interest them in pursuing a career in aeronautics," said Jaiwon Shin, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics research in Washington.

The free educational software forces gamers to use math and problem-solving skills to safely guide evening airline traffic into the San Francisco Bay Area from the East. Player can adjust the planes' path and speed to reach certain spots in the sky in the fastest time possible while keeping the planes a specific distance from each other.

Initially developed for Apple iPhone, iPod and iPad devices, an Android version of Sector 33 will be available in the coming months.

"Today's students respond positively to experiential learning," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education. "Using an interactive game to spark their interest, while at the same time teaching them fundamental math concepts, is a win-win scenario. It's a perfect way to help cultivate the next generation of engineers and technologists."

The math-focused game also aligns with the NASA Office of Education's mission to engage students in activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Smart Skies has been used in middle school classrooms across the United States since 2005.

Sector 33's development was overseen by NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

The application may be downloaded free of charge at: http://www.nasa.gov/sector33

The Sector 33 app is:

  • A companion app to the Smart Skies classroom product, LineUp With Math.
  • An air traffic control game designed to interest students in aeronautics-related careers.
  • Designed to connect mathematics and problem solving to the real world.


  • 35 problems featuring two to five airplanes
  • Speed and route controls
  • Weather obstacles
  • Four levels of controller certification
  • In-game introduction, hints, and help section
  • Extra videos


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