The KerbalEdu Game

Kerbal Source: Kerbal KerbalEdu is the educational version of the Kerbal Space Game. KerbalEdu helps students' creativity with an iterative design approach to learning from mistakes. STEM skills and competencies are nurtured and developed through playing the game such as concepts of force and energy. There are for example visual prompts in the game such as force arrows that show the forces affecting virtual in-game objects like a spacecraft. You can use force arrows by attaching “force arrows” - part to your spacecraft. Then all the forces that affect your spacecraft will be showed as holographic arrows. Another concept is the energy spheres, is a part that when attached to a vessel shows a window with two spheres visualizing the relation of potential and kinetic energy of the in-game vessel - an interesting example for introducing experimentation via game objects.

Kerbal is helping students to develop data collection and data analysis skills with emphasis on research processes as performed by real researchers. For example, there is a design helper feature that pops-up when the player assembles an in-game rocket. Design data and Data select are features for players to manipulate design data. Data select lets the player choose specific information like the mass, thrust or delta-v of the vessel and display it in the Design data tab. Resource flow analysis shows which parts use/produce what resource (like Oxidizer or Liquid fuel) and from/to which part.

Various types of data are being represented and visualised in the game like the flight recorder records various physical data about the flight. This data is shown in-game as graphs, and can be exported to .csv (comma separated values) format, which can be opened in almost any spreadsheet software (for example excel) for further review. A .png screenshot of the in-game graphs and a .pdf flight report can also be exported.

Teachers can use the flight recorder as part of your KerbalEdu lesson reporting. It can be used to explain the various stages and events that occurred during the flight. Another data type is the function tool is a graphical interface for creating mathematical functions. These functions are evaluated real-time during a flight, and their results are recorded in the flight recorder. It can be used to demonstrate various physical laws and equations.

The approach to using Kerbal as an educational resource is premised to offer a low-threshold approach to space exploration and teach the players perseverance and problem-solving skills while getting familiar with the physics concepts. Through questioning and making initial scenarios students improve their understanding on STEM concepts. For example a probable scenario is that the first few rockets won’t make it out of atmosphere. Your rocket didn’t go high enough? Maybe add a more powerful thruster. Now you ran out of fuel too soon? Add more fuel tanks. Now it’s too heavy? By probing, modifying and re-applying students are encouraged to find and make the right questions as to improve their constructions.

For integrating Kerbal in teaching, teachers may wish to consider the following:

1. Start the lesson with a specific scenario (e.g. sent a rocket to Mars)
2. Design your scenario: Try to have a design or inquiry-based model instead of a simple trial and error
3. Test & Document: Test that your designs are inherent to Kerbal and document changes and additions for further improvement.