Who wants to learn about physics and orbital mechanics by stuffing little green aliens into rocketships and sending them off into space to see whether or not they will fly?
The award-winning Kerbal Space Program, a sandbox-style space flight sim, has been lauded for its realism (barring, of course, the fact that these little Kerbals can live forever in space with or without spacesuits, all their equipment is perfectly reliable, etc.). Though still technically in alpha, the game is already considered a success. Almost immediately after its release in late March 2013, Kerbal Space Program rocketed to the Top 5 Best Sold Steam games, and the number one spot for Steam Linux games.
And now Kerbal Space Program has a brand new frontier to explore.
Following in the venerable footsteps of Minecraft and MinecraftEdu, teachers and students can now work together to learn rocket science and space travel with the official launch of KerbalEdu, the modified educational version of Kerbal Space Program.
Squad, the developers of KSP, have partnered with TeacherGaming to launch this project at www.kerbaledu.com. Interested students and teachers are encouraged to check out the website for more information on the game, now available on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
This is not to say that Squad is finished with the development of Kerbal Space Program! Far from it. In fact, it looks like TeacherGaming will be the ones taking the reins on the classroom version, modifying KSP to enhance its value in the classroom.
But like Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby, will this rendition of KSP rip all the fun out of a cool little space sim and leave it an empty shell of what it really is?
Just what is TeacherGaming changing?
The first mod for KerbalEdu hasn’t been released yet, but the KSP forums did give us an idea of what is in the works:
- Metric system and other systems for easier data comparison and integration with other school topics
- UI alterations to include analyzer and data collector tools for easier data gathering, data summarization and problem solving with ship designs
- Premade lessons that introduce or need a specific scientific method or formula to be solved, such as a rocket with too small of an engine needing more thrust
- Valuable materials outside of the actual game, but with heavy connections to it, that help educators drive home important lessons
And according to TeacherGaming CEO, Santeri Koivisto:
“KerbalEdu is going to help players do more than just dream of the stars in their classroom. It’s going to give them the tools to learn how to reach them. Squad is a great partner and a believer in our mission to use games to help educate the next generation of students.“
Altogether, the future looks pretty bright. Moreover, in a different interview with PCGamesN earlier last year, Koivisto seems to completely understand this natural fear of soulless schooling, and wants TeacherGaming to bring the same philosophy to KerbalEdu that they relied on for MinecraftEdu:
“The idea is that we don’t ruin the game. So when the kids come to school they don’t think it’s some rubbish school Minecraft, they just know it’s their favorite game at home and now they’re playing at school.”
How many schools will be able to play KerbalEdu?
It’s all well and good to learn that more hands-on educational gameplay and learning will be making their way into schools… but which schools?
It’s not an easy process, and a lot of it is based on the fact that not every school is blessed with the ability to pick up something new and add it into their curriculum just like that. And then you have the fact that schools can’t just use any old online marketplace to get their software.
“It may be funny for a private person to think, ‘I have my credit card, I can just go online and buy stuff,’ but schools can’t do that. It’s a huge mess of purchasing systems. We’ve tried to work with the different countries’ purchasing systems and been successful with that.”
Early estimates stated that about 50 schools would be implementing the KerbalEdu software upon first release.
KerbalEdu will be provided for a discounted price for interested schools, and those who do choose to use the software will also be able to offer their students a discounted price on the regular Kerbal Space Program for when they go home, too.
Not a bad deal, huh? Definitely a step up from the educational learning of yesteryear which consisted mainly of learning home row. (“Quick. Ask. Zoe.”)