Teaching with KerbalEdu

Kerbal Space Program is a sandbox game that is based on a realistic physics model and physics concepts are implicitly interwoven in the gameplay.

Our guideline to developing KerbalEdu, an educational modification to the game, has been 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.

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How to teach with KerbalEdu?

KerbalEdu is a tool to teach a systematic and analytic method to iterative design. Playing the game, students can acquire working skills for real-life problem-solving. The original gameplay is already based on developing design through cycles of trial and error: a probable scenario is that your first few (dozen) 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?

What we bring to the equation is a systematic approach that encourages the students to ask the right question to improve their constructions.

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Getting started

If you are new to Kerbal Space Program, Earth History Campaign will teach you the basics of the game while familiarising you with Newtonian mechanics and introducing you to systematic problem-solving.

Other resources


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Design, building & iteration

Set Goals - Start your lesson with a specific goal, e.g. altitude, orbit, polar mission or interplanetary transfer   

Design your mission - Instead of plain trial and error, try introducing a design-based model for solving problems   

Test & document - To introduce a good practise, take notes or write a report of each attempt using a reporting template.   

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Physics lab, testing & data

Data, data, data… - Did you know you can record flight data and export it? KerbalEdu is designed to act as a data gathering tool, so you can use authentic data as the basis of your calculations and assignments. This works both ways: you can also start by making your calculations and then test to see if they hold in the game.

Based on an almost realistic physics model - While the Kerbal-physics are good, they are not perfect. Take the learning opportunity and explore how they differ.

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Managing longer projects & teamwork

Roleplay - Working in teams, assign duties to each player: an engineer, a pilot, a flight controller and a project manager

  •    Engineer: given the budget, how can you meet the requirements for the functionality?

  •    Pilot: you’re given a mission to fly: research the necessary manoeuvres and familiarise yourself with the vessel and staging.

  •    Flight control: manage the orbital view and plan the manoeuvre nodes and transfer orbits.

  •    Project manager: organise your team, submit your program for review to get a green light from your superiors, manage your budget.

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