Both Microsoft and Apple have a long history of targeting children with products while they are still in school. By selling products cheaply to schools and students both companies have placed their gear in front of children, helping to ensure that when they leave school they’ll stick with what they’re familiar with. Microsoft is now offering a new video game called Kodu Mars that aims to teach children to code.
The free video game has children controlling a rover on the surface of Mars that looks a lot like Curiosity. The programming game has a simple tile-based visual development environment that looks a lot like Minecraft to me. With the popularity of Minecraft among kids, the similarity is no surprise. The rover kids control has sampling tool and a scanning laser.
The game is available for PC users, and on the Xbox with controls designed to operate using a keyboard or a game pad. The video game is free and tools are offered for students and teachers. Microsoft is obviously hoping for classroom tie-ins with the game. The game comes from collaboration between Microsoft and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Microsoft worked with NASA and Arizona State University to develop a teaching curriculum based on controlling the rover. According to Microsoft, the tools used in Kodu, specifically the tile-based visual programming environment and the event handling features, teach more than coding alone. Microsoft says that the tools also introduce students to complex computer science topics in a way friendly enough for children to understand. The goal of the game is to roll around the surface of Mars discovery rocks that can be tested, gaining power for your rover, and taking photographs.