Meet the Team:
Jasper Rebane, 12 years old
Kati Eliisabet Peterson, 16 years old
Interestingly, the team got formed quite accidentally. The person that originally found the Kodu Kup event and wanted to participate asked Jasper to join the team. However, the person himself did not participate in the game building effort due to other interests. Jasper then asked Kati to join the team since they had had previous cooperation experience from Kati’s school programming club doing a java based platform game.
The team managed itself in that they did not need teacher or instructor support to learn the Kodu platform, rather they surfed around the Kodu Gamelab exploring what and how they could do and also looked for clues on the net.
Project: Kodu’s Epic Mars Adventure
The Game starts with Kodu arriving to Mars. The mission is to explore the Mars surroundings and completing exploration objectives which require solving riddles and a little math. The player will also find out about some interesting facts about Mars during the gameplay. Player must also use moderate dexterity and foresight to grasp the surroundings and to successfully move around.
In there own words:
“Teaching myself the Kodu Gamelab environment was quite easy and did not take a long time before we could start working on building the game. My team-mate Jasper started with the environment and helped me to get started as well. During the work I learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the platform which meant that we had to use the strengths of the platform to overcome some weaknesses.
Our team was formed quite oddly. One day I went to the computer club held in my school and the teacher asked whether I’d like to participate in a gaming related competition. I agreed instantly. Then I found out that there are other members in the team, including Jasper. It was also made clear to me that the game must be on Mars topic. During the summer, other team-mates showed no determination to work on the game so myself and Jasper took it upon ourselves to build the game. We got a lot of interesting ideas from everyday life, for example we watched “The Hobbit” movie and the part where Bilbo and Smeagol were doing riddles gave me an idea that our game should also have riddles.
As I said, it was Jasper who taught me the Kodu Gamelab environment and who taught it to himself. So we worked on the game together using our fantasies to develop some ideas and then trying to find simple ways in the Gamelab to realize them. I often had the role of concentrating the ideas Jasper generated and then simplified them so we could realistically find ways to accomplishing them as many things we wanted to do in the game were not readily supported by the platform. This was the most interesting aspect about the game challenge, constructing seemingly complex things from simple building blocks. Another very demanding challenge was finding the time to work on the game and keeping the delivery schedule so we would have the product on time. What I like the most about our game are the interesting riddles, calculus tasks and also cool effects by Jasper.
I think that in Estonia the computer education has still some way to go. There are schools in Estonia where CS courses are mandatory for all students but also schools where the official curriculum is missing. Many people try to learn by themselves at home. Sadly, I think the general level of CS education in primary and secondary school level is low and mostly teaches the very basics on how to use Word and make simple Powerpoint slides for homework. It is quite common that teachers form student teams during the class and the teams must then present their topics using Powerpoint shows. I personally like designing Powerpoint slideshows.
Fortunately in my school starting from the 10th grade one can choose to take programming and robotics courses. This can open a path to university and a career in computers and robotics.” – Kati
“Making the game was difficult at times but that in turn kept the work interesting, including finding solutions to work-around some limitations. A good example is how the landing scene is built so that it would look realistic. Some other challenges were keeping the in-game texts interesting. Character timing and synchronization of character text and movement in cut-scenes was especially difficult. We also spent some time in making the landscape smooth rather than blocky which was not so obvious to solve. Besides finding work-around solutions I learned the English language.
Our school does not have computer class facility nor computer curriculum. Only teachers have computers and in the school basement there is a broken CRT monitor to look at but that’s all.
I believe that computer education is very important since computers are already everywhere and we’ll only have more of them doing tasks for us. Not knowing about computers will seriously limit what you can do. It is therefore very important that basic computer skills like using computers, coding and such are taught at school so people can self educate on the net if they wish. Starting from zero is very difficult, for example some of my school mates don’t know how to copy-paste, how can they self educate on the net if they are missing such elementary skills?” – Jasper
The team was coached by their teacher, Oliver Loo. Here is what inspired him to bring coding into his students’ lives: “I have been in contact with coding and programming most of my life. From a young age I knew this was something I wanted to do in the future so I sought out every chance I could to learn a new programming language or something similar. Unfortunately, this is/was not something a part of many schools curriculums, so the main sources for learning was the internet with a few occasional outside classe. The discovery and figuring out how things work is the most fun part about writing code and can keep one entertained for days on end. Once the end-result has been reached, it really gives a great sense of accomplishment especially if you can share the result. Nowadays, knowing even only a little bit of code can go a long way especially when looking for jobs. As the business is only growing by the day the need for good programmers doesn’t look to be in any shortage what-so-ever.”
The Ambassadors of KoduKup in Estonia are: Birgy Lorenz and Petri Asperk
The Tallinn Pelgulinn Gymnasium teachers Birgy Lorenz and Petri Asperk raised awareness about the Kodu Game Lab and Kodu KUP in Estonia by sharing the information materials and organising competition related events for techers and kids. Here is what they told us about the coding state of play in Estonia:
Estonian NGO Look@World is organising SmartLabs, which are IT-related afterschool activities for the Youth, for the third consecutive year. SmartLabs are focusing on delivering strong computers science/programming skills for kids. In each SmartLab – 20 weeks (once per week) of programming will take place, involving approximately 16 participants per SmartLab. During 2012/2013 Look@World organised 36 and in 2013/2014 24 SmartLabs across Estonia. The activities vary based on the participants age, knowledge and the specialization of the tutor. The classes include robotics (Lego We Do and advanced), programming (Scratch, Phyton, 3D modelling), mobile app development and also game programming with Kodu Game Lab that also gives the Youth the possibility to be part of a world-wide programming-community. Each SmartLab is normally based around one main topic. Look@World Foundation provides some of the teaching materials, but every tutor can adjust them to their needs and add their own knowledge.
Most of SmartLab teachers have had training in programming/robotics and many of them teach computer science. Within the next few years the NGO Look@World has a vision to engage 5000 kids/teenagers in ICT-related after-school activities. Until today SmartLabs have been financed by Microsoft and other Estonian private companies. The aim of Look@World is to open more SmartLabs and find sustainable financing tools that would also mean applying for grants from European Union Structural Funds that open in autumn 2015. Furthermore, Estonian Ministry of Education and Science had developed a strategy for lifelong learning until 2020, in which special emphasis is put on the ICT skills of the population, development of virtual study materials and innovative teaching methods.
See the team’s national page!