Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Kerbal Space Program.

KerbalEdu is currently still only the mainstream Kerbal game, the Edu mod for this game is not available yet. However, I got a chance to explore the game with students today, and I have some pretty good ideas of what I personally would like to see the mod add to the game for schools, students and teachers.

I am using it to explore forces with students, from gravity to air resistance and friction to the lack of, this game has some pretty neat physics we can use to talk about these forces. I gave the students a very brief introduction to the controls on Tuesday, gave my tech the installer to deploy to the school computers, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best this morning when I walked into my classroom.

There are some local issues that need to be addressed prior to future lessons, but that can only be found by testing things out. KSP itself actually runs quite smoothly, I did have to cut down the graphics a little bit just to get it running smoothly. For a game, in a classroom setting, this is really the first one I have used in which the students are 'on their own', that is they are not playing together, but each student has complete control over their own experience.

I gave them a choice between 2 goals, in sandbox mode, no restrictions. They had the option to build a space plane, or a rocket. If they chose the plane, their goal was to get it out of the atmosphere and then land it on the planet again. For those that chose the rocket, they needed to get to the moon and back safely. In a 45 minute lesson, after explaining how to launch the game and that they were pioneers at using this game in a school we had about 30 minutes left.

Some students claimed to have played the game before, however I did not really see what I expected from those who had, they were not streaks ahead of the first timers. There was a lot of 'not reading' going on, much like what I see in Minecraft, which had a pretty serious impact on the students ability to get their creation airborne.

So some students did get airborne, many students unfortunately exploded many rockets and planes, and the population of the Kerbal Astronaut Complex was severely impacted. I think the students took a little bit too much pleasure in watching the poor Kerbals explode.

So what will I do from here? I think before I go into class next time I will create a base for both the rocket and the plane to give to students to tweak, adjust and try to make it fly. The biggest issue today was in getting compatible parts, and since I am nowhere near an expert at building planes or rockets myself, having only put in a few hours of gameplay, I really struggled to help them find the correct parts.

I need to work out which fuel tanks and engines are compatible for the planes, or at the very least explore some of the included creations and suggest that students base their spacecraft on that. I am really looking forward to seeing where KerbalEdu can take my teaching. I think that not only will it be great for teaching forces as I am using it now, but also for costings, higher end physics than I fully understand as well as some scientific principles if I explore career mode.

That is it for now, feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Getting to the moon is actually a pretty advanced undertaking. Consider following the space program: first just get a rocket to the edge of space and return the capsule to earth. Next, try to get into orbit and then return. Not until those tasks are accomplished should you try to do a lunar mission.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Chris, I completely agree, this post was written about a week ago and I have adjusted my goals since. I am now starting a lot smaller, get a plane airborne, fly it, and land it for the plane group and for the rocket group, get out of the atmosphere and back down again. Both groups are to try not to kill their pilot.