Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Celebrate the Anniversary of the Curiosity Mars Rover with Kodu

On August 6th 2012 (August 5th in some timezones) the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars in the Gale Crater. For many kids this event started an interest in space exploration. Curiosity is still out there doing important research and sending data back to scientists on Earth.

We think it's worth celebrating the anniversary of Rover's landing on Mars and this year we've been looking at Kodu's Mars Edition. Kodu is a games programming environment for children from Microsoft which uses drag and drop icons. Kodu is available for the XBox or as a free download for the PC.

There are Kodu: Mars Edition lesson plans for children aged around 11+, but younger children will also be able to have run with the Rover content.

Kodu: Mars Edition was added to the PC version in 2012 and the Rover content became a long term addition to the environment. If your kids haven't tried Kodu then now's a good time to try.

Getting Started with Kodu: Mars Edition

There isn't actually a special edition to download, you just find the content in the regular edition of Kodu. Here's the original trailer for Kodu: Mars Edition to give you an idea of what to expect:

After running Kodu you can access Mars specific content. The Rover character can also be used in any game you create in Kodu. Rover has the ability to scan rocks and perform scientific analysis to simulate the work of the real Curiosity Rover on Mars.

Little Kids and Beginners

For the youngest children we recommend UK primary school teacher Carole Rush's YouTube videos that teach children from age 4+ how to use Kodu: Mars Edition. The videos are very slow so that young children can follow along. Start with the first video in the series of five: Kodu Mars 1 Age 4+ Introduction Curiosity on Mars.

Big Kids

Children aged around 8+ will be able to play the lessons that are included in Kodu: Mars Edition. After starting Kodu choose 'Load World' from the main menu and then navigate (you can use the right arrow key) to one of the Mars themed game levels or starter worlds. You have to move right quite a few times to find the Mars content. 

Starting by playing the Mars Rover: Discovery and Mars Rover: The Expedition game levels will help kids learn the features that are available to use. The levels teach kids about Mars exploration science as they play games in Kodu. 

To look at the kode, click Esc to enter edit mode. Click on the Kodu character in the menu to enter Object Tool mode, then right click on the Rover and choose Program. You will see the graphical code that controls Rover in the lesson. 

This Mars Rover Rocks Tutorial is useful to watch to give kids ideas on how to create their own Kodu Mars Rover game.

Tweens and Teens

For kids aged around 11+ there are lesson plans from Microsoft and the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab/Caltech which are built around the Mars game levels in Kodu. 

These lessons are designed for teachers to use in school but some of the ideas could be used at home with kids who are really interested in learning more about how the Curiosity Rover works. 

The lesson plans are available from the Kodu: Mars Edition page

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