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About JenBurdoo

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  1. JenBurdoo

    Video games as teaching mediums?

    This post from the blog of Dr. Richard Bartle, inventor of the MMORPG, says it all for me. TLDR: Games teach facts, not skills. They teach incidentally, not directly. Games that make what they want to teach the core mechanic of the game will fail (ie, you can't win the boss battle without solving the popup equation 2+2=4), but games will succeed by letting you play without the learning but make it handy to know (You have four shots with which to kill the boss, but you can combine them into sets of two to be more powerful. If you do, you'll figure out quickly that you only have two shots and that 2+2=4). If you focus on the fun, education can fend for itself; if you focus on the education, you won't get fun education but rather an unfun game. In KSP terms, you can play perfectly happily without reading the background or knowing the math, but if you do it will help you enjoy it, and before long you'll understand what periapse and apoapse are, and why they're important - without cracking a book. I have learned more about the technicalities of space travel from KSP than from reading a dozen astronaut memoirs. I'm glad to have read those memoirs, but they didn't teach me in the same way KSP does, and now I've learned I can reread them with greater appreciation. I have no math skills and could not possibly have learned this stuff from a conventional physics text.
  2. JenBurdoo

    Feedback from the high school teacher who tried KSP

    The tweens at my library play Minecraft religiously; the teens do not, although they are effectively segregated in a different computer lab, and a few of them occasionally try KSP but are mostly interested in console games. None have really expressed interest in going farther than occasional explosions in KSP; it might be better if I could successfully demo a full mission but the demo is more limited than it used to be in parts.
  3. JenBurdoo

    Using the Demo in a school club

    I'm told by tech center staff that a few kids are playing KSP even when I'm not present, so I think the bug has bitten! I should have some time on Monday to run it as well.
  4. JenBurdoo

    Using the Demo in a school club

    DarkGravity: No, you're absolutely right. A library today does not just hand out books; it's a clearing center for all sorts of info, from e-books to videos to online learning to books to art. The paradigm is actually already what you think it's going to be, and has been for going on decades. What I'm really hoping for (which I may not have made clear) is that the kids want to learn about the wonders of science and reality -- and there are any number of ways for them to do that. Reading blogs like the Bad Astronomer, watching Youtube vids or movies like Apollo 13, or reading astronaut memoirs in hardcopy, on a Kindle or computer screen. Self-directed learning is the name of the game and the librarian's role today is to help make that learning possible by being familiar with as many options as possible and either matching them to the patron or showing the patron how to find what she wants on her own. We live in South Florida and it's hurricane season. We'll go outside and look at clouds, or I'll provide resources on the Hurricane Hunters squadron, or show them the Earth from space and how satellites tell us where the storms are going. The summer reading theme this year (across the country) is "Every Hero Has a Story." They can try to make Jeb and Val into heroes, or they can read about the real Valentina Tereshkova, or I can show them filksongs on Youtube, or Apollo 13, or The Right Stuff, and then suggest they try to recreate those in KSP. They're trying to solve lateral thinking puzzles right now that, thus far unbeknownst to them, are cribbed from the real history of space and aviation. There are a million options, and my only regret is that I haven't time to try them all.
  5. JenBurdoo

    Using the Demo in a school club

    The program didn't go great on the day; I had maybe a dozen people watching but only three who played, and no books went out. I left the games on the Macs, though. I've been slowly running through the demo career on my lunch hour and when I do, teens who weren't there for the program ask what I'm doing and want to try it. I had three of them working at it for hours today trying to play. Their biggest success so far was a terribly unbalanced and oddly-staged beast that disappeared in a tremendous explosion. They love it -- two are planning to download the demo at home and one wants to get the full game. They also expressed interest when I brought in real space science and missions in response to their questions, like Apollo 10 (explaining how atmo slows and heats up capsules) and Shoemaker-Levy 9 (what would happen if an asteroid hit Jupiter -- surprise, it already has!). I'll bring in a couple books tomorrow, and I'm vaguely hoping to engender enough interest to talk the county into coughing up for the full game -- IIRC, KerbalEDU sells it for $17 to educational institutions. Another thing I do with them regularly is twenty-questions-style brainteasers, AKA Lateral Thinking Puzzles. I know a few related to the space program (mostly borrowed from the surprisingly comedic writings of Michael Collins), and they're slowly chewing over one now.
  6. JenBurdoo

    Using the Demo in a school club

    How else are they going to get ideas, figure out how to orbit, or work out their d/v? Seriously, my typical campaign recreates real missions... and there is an awesome KSPHistory site out there. I'm gonna leave a stack of books by the 'puters and talk them up. It might take awhile, but that stack will get smaller. I've seen it happen.
  7. JenBurdoo

    Using the Demo in a school club

    It's not that I'm concerned they won't understand it, I'm just torn between showing it to them and letting them work it out (or research it!) on their own. They are high-schoolers and, as a librarian, I'm ultimately trying to get them to read... although I should point out that all the astronaut memoirs I've read, while inspiring and full of great details and imagery, said virtually nothing about orbital mechanics, which I learned purely through the process of trying to play KSP!
  8. JenBurdoo

    Using the Demo in a school club

    It's more the "get them interested" side of things; this is pretty much a STEM program already but more focused on computers, film, music, etc, and there is little gaming yet. I very much like the idea of the "Engineering Design Process." Thanks for that. There is a projector and screen I can put up nearby so I am leaning more and more towards using it for a demonstration -- at the very least using it to get their attention with things blowing up horribly (Is the F12 function that lets me throw things available in the demo?), but still leaning towards "Jeb wants to get into space. What should we do to get him there?" Have been experimenting, though I can barely get 1.0 to work at home so I don't have a lot of time with it. I've discovered that the Stayputnik is virtually uncontrollable so I need a crewed capsule... so far I have not been able to get the instructional-launch craft into orbit and it does not contain a chute so the pilot keeps getting killed on the way down! I am planning to provide control-instruction sheets from the KerbalEDU site. Once I demonstrate the controls and the design process, I'll set them at the five or six computers the game will be loaded on and let them at it for an hour or two, but I'm not sure what their task, if any, should be. I may want to have this be a regular thing and so just have them launch a safe flight for the first session, get into orbit the next, make it to the Mun the third... Or I could give them a goal like "Who can get their ship the farthest around Kerbin?" If I set them a simple goal, I'd want to avoid teaching them the basic things to avoid so they could work it out themselves... Thoughts? This is a regular library teen group and the games will probably stay on the 'puters for the kids to play regularly. I'll have a display of NASA books as well, and maybe play a couple music videos beforehand (Fire in the Sky from my sig, for example).
  9. I've just been temporarily assigned as a teen librarian, and have a STEM program coming up. I've gotten permission to run the KSP 1.0 Demo on the teen tech lab Macs and have gotten it to work. But now -- what to do with it? (KerbalEDU is not an option at the moment.) - Demonstrate it on a projector to show the controls, staging, tips etc? - Demonstrate it on a projector and get the teens to tell me how to fly and improve a ship until it gets into orbit? - Demonstrate how orbits work? - Have them try for a given goal (distance, height, orbit, the Mun)? Also, I've notice 1.0 atmo is hell on my launches - they overheat on the way up and then the parachutes fail to work on the way down. Turn the heating off or down? The demo seems to have no heatshield or fairings, also I'm having trouble keeping the capsule stable as it falls back into atmo. I can see these being frustrating for new players. Thanks for any thoughts!
  10. If I start the update, it either pauses immediately or times out. Steam responded with a form letter to deactivate my antivirus (don't have any), delete my appcache folder (comes right back) and restart my computer (no effect). I'm on the verge of repurchasing the game from, and was wondering if it were possible for Squad to allow me to dl it from their site without having to pay again?
  11. There's a couple interesting (sandbox) campaigns in the wiki which cover the milestones of IRL space exploration.
  12. JenBurdoo

    Calculating DV is "hard"??

    It's not difficult, but it's time-consuming, and difficult for a layman to remember. I've never liked math, and I don't want to take several minutes out of my playing time and a bite out of my crappy computer's memory to bring up the formula and calculator, figure out which numbers go where and probably get them wrong... That's not to say that it isn't useful. If you're using KSP in a classroom, it can even be fun because the student will get to see the result of his calculation. But for an ordinary gamer...
  13. JenBurdoo

    Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design

    My favorite is Augustine's Laws, by Norman Augustine (Yes, same guy running the future-of-spaceflight committees). I prefer the 1982 edition, which was written for military-aerospace engineers, over the one currently in print which is dumbed down and pointed at a more generalist business-layman sort of audience. It's freaking hilarious yet utterly serious at the same time, because every rule is backed up by actual statistics. 3. Law of Apocalyptic Costing: "Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other ten percent of the time you had no right to expect so much." (Demonstrates the percentage of programs that overrun their budgets, and produces a formula for determining how much more budget you need to avoid an overrun -- in general, multiply your budget by two and a half). 7. Law of Insatiable Appetites: "The last 10 percent of the performance sought generates one third of the cost and two-thirds of the problems." (This holds for baseball players, optical lenses, airplanes, diamonds and machined parts.) 9. Final Law of Economic Disarmament AKA First Law of Impending Doom: "In the year 2054, the entire [uS] defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3 1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day." (When trends for the national budget and the unit cost of aircraft are compared, they eventually intersect. Keep on going and the entire military might of the US, and then the planet will be concentrated into one vehicle by 2200 or so -- this is how we get that Death Star people were asking the White House for.) 10. Law of Undiminished Expectations: "It is very expensive to achieve high degrees of unreliability. It is not uncommon to increase the cost of an item by a factor of ten for each factor of ten degradation accomplished." (The cost of an item is inversely proportional to its reliablity -- the more expensive it is, the quicker it breaks and the longer it takes to repair. This leads to: 11. Augustine-Morrison Law of Unidirectional Flight: "Aircraft flight in the 21st century will always be in a westerly direction, preferably supersonic, to provide the additional hours needed each day to maintain all the broken parts." Others point out that the trend of adding electronics is so high that eventually there will be no airplane crashes OR takeoffs because the entire aircraft will be electronic. Cost will continue to rise, however, because of the trend of adding software, which is expensive yet weighs nothing. The cheaper and simpler the system, the more testing it requires, and this is directly proportional -- The amount of money spent on one or two spaceflights, after which the craft is declared operational, is pretty close to the thousands and thousands of shoulder-fired rockets that have to be fired before that system is declared operational. Technical manuals and government contracts are getting longer and longer, to the point where the paperwork for some aircraft exceeds their takeoff weight. The weapons that have the greatest impact on the enemy are the simplest and lowest-costing. And so on. Not to mention that the more expensive the overall vehicle, the cheaper the element at the initial point of failure -- like the anti-radiation missile that kept going off course when a tiny warning sticker was peeled off by the windshear and fell into the radar fuse. Naturally, this was not noticed during testing, but only after a great many of them had failed in combat -- because combat conditions are usually far worse than those they are tested under...
  14. JenBurdoo

    Rate that Sig

    8/10. Nice quotes, but quite a lot of different things so a bit cluttered. What's the four-colored stripe?
  15. JenBurdoo

    High and Low Orbit???? What!!!! Scroll down. High over the Mun is 60km. Anything under that is low. If you're trying to follow a contract you have to do so exactly; it will give you an orbital height you have to stay in, and when you are there that line in your contract will have a green checkmark.