Kerbal Space Program blasts into physics classroom as an end-of-year project
The still-in-development indie space exploration sim Kerbal Space Program has gotten a lot of attention from us. We called it amazing and absolutely worth the price, even though it’s still in alpha development and doesn’t even have a release date yet. It’s a game that is great to mess around in and even greater if you know what you’re doing.
As someone who knows what he’s doing, physics teacher Dan Fullerton at Irondequoit High School in Rochester, New York, takes advantage of the lull between rigorous AP exams and the end of the school year to try something interesting. This year the project is to run a space agency out of Kerbal Space Program (Past years’ projects have included semiconductor physics, superconductivity, and building an electromagnetic rail gun.)
Fullerton says he tries to include games in the curriculum a few times each year, and he’s a fan of Portal and flight sim Falcon 4 In the past, his students have analyzed the physics of games like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty
“My goal with the Kerbal Space Program is to build student interest in [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] fields and, following an entire year of technically challenging work, give them an opportunity to see how they can apply some of what they learned in a fun and engaging manner.”
Approaching the post-exam end of the school year with a game helps students gather the will to keep showing up at all. As one of Fullerton’s students, Charlie Eckert, says, “Since we finished the AP, I've had very little motivation to do actual work. However, Kerbal Space Program doesn't feel like work so I'm more willing to do it.”
“I think any time you can capture the enthusiasm of a student, you have an opportunity,” Fullerton says. “The trick as an educator is realizing our kids have varied interests, so we need to find ways to tie in what we do to each of their interests.”