As I write this, Curiosity is about a day away from its big moment, its touchdown on Mars (Boy, I hope it lands with no problems! Fingers, arms, legs, eyes are all crossed that all goes well! Go NASA! Go Humanity!). Needless to say, there's a good bit of Mars Fever right now.
You think you have it in you to program a Mars lander? Would you like to give your kids, family and friends a development environment and experience that's not only not scary, instead is very fun and approachable? Just want to game around on Mars?
With excitement peaking in the days before the landing, Microsoft and NASA are using the event as an opportunity to enable youngsters to learn computational skills and explore the Martian terrain by using Kodu: Mars Edition.
Developed in cooperation with NASA’s Mars Public Engagement Program, led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Microsoft Research’s FUSE Labs, Kodu: Mars Edition lets children create games for the PC or Xbox using a simple, visual programming language. The aim of the collaboration is to create compelling learning experiences that develop students’ competency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), along with 21st-century skills.
Kodu: Mars Edition, available for free download, is being unveiled during a Curiosity Landing educator conference in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 3 at JPL. The release enables school kids in the fifth through eighth grades to program a Mars rover, explore the planet, or play one of three professionally developed game levels.
The Martian adventure introduces new objects and new programming elements into the Kodu environment via the game levels and enables students to develop skills similar to those of real NASA rover drivers:
Search and Explore Mars: Students will determine the most efficient set of commands to navigate a rover across terrain using scientific data.
Under the Rover’s Hood: Students will program how the rover will move and act autonomously, as well as run trials to evaluate and refine their programming.
Mars Mission Simulation: Students will design a simulated Martian environment and program a rover to explore Mars autonomously.
These were precisely the sort of playful learning exercises envisioned when Kodu was being researched and developed by FUSE Labs.
Kodu lets kids create games on the PC and XBox via a simple visual programming language. Kodu can be used to teach creativity, problem solving, storytelling, as well as programming. Anyone can use Kodu to make a game, young children as well as adults with no design or programming skills.
Join our community, and discover games created by others and share your game at KoduGameLab.com.
Kodu for the PC is available to download for free. Kodu for the XBox is also available in the USA on the XBox Marketplace, in the Indie Games channel for about $5.
Kodu Teaches more than Programming
- Kodu is a rich tool for narrative creation and storytelling
- Kodu demonstrates that programming is a creative medium
- Kodu helps children with critical thinking, breaking a complex goal into manageable steps, and iterate on the design process – an approach applicable to all academic subjects, business and personal relationships
- Kodu introduces the logic and problem solving of programming
- Kodu introduces conditions and sequences, which teaches cause and effect
- Students learn about cooperation, logic and creativity in addition to programming
- Read about our Kodu pilot program in Australia's public schools: Report (pdf)
Anyone Can Use Kodu
- Kodu can be taught by any teacher, no previous programming expertise required
- Ages 8 and up typically have the most success
Kodu Classroom Kit for Educators
The Kodu classroom kit is a set of lesson plans and activities for educators, after-school instructors, parents, peer mentors and administrators. The entire kit is available as a single zip file for download here or as single lesson plans available below:
Have I said, Kodu is free?
Kodu is a visual programming language made specifically for creating games.
Date published: 7/31/2012
KoduSetup.msi, 191.5 MB
Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The visual nature of the language allows for rapid design iteration using only an Xbox game controller for input (mouse/keyboard input is also supported).
Supported operating systems: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP
A graphics card that supports DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 2.0 or higher is required. .NET Framework 3.5 or higher is required. XNA Framework 3.1 Redistributable is required.
Once installed you can start playing with it right away. You can playing an exiting Mars world (which you have the "source" to play with and tweak if you want) or start with a blank Mars slate.
So for the kids in your life, or the kid in you, Kodu; Mars Edition, might help your Mars Fever (or make it even worse! Sorry about that!