NASA teamed up with Rovio earlier this year to send birds into space — Angry Birds that is, on a STEM-based mission to educate kids in physics and space exploration on both iOS and Android devices. As the new school year is getting underway, teachers are combing every available resource to create a rich and meaningful learning experience that holds kids attention, imparts valuable science and math skills and brings a smile or two to make the medicine go down a little easier. Some feel that the partnership between the popular games creator and NASA has earned the space agency high marks and a thumbs up for their progressive vision to make learning fun.
The new update to the 2012 version of Angry Birds Space, called Beak Impact, sends the birds and pigs through 40 new mission levels keyed into educational content for kids on NASA’s current work with asteroids. Gamers quickly get hooked into the puzzle missions that include real-life scientific data to lead the kids to discover facts about the asteroids and their role in the agency’s long-term plans to explore Mars with a manned mission by the mid-2030s. The various levels allow kids to work with the Orion capsule, the OSIRIS-Rex, the Deep Impact and Dawn spacecraft that channels back to the data on each craft’s probe missions. Players can explore the robotic technology and skills that NASA astronauts will need to extract materials from the asteroids to bring the Red Planet mission to fruition. The mission pulls on the kids’ sense of humor and adventure, as well, featuring astronaut “dunk tanks,” and a collision between an asteroid and the moon.
Kids and parents that want even more Angry Birds can visit Kennedy Space Center’s interactive Space Encounter exhibit. The interactive exhibit contains energetic activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is the first display of its kind in the U.S., and attracts visitors young and old to learn principles of physics and space exploration. David Weaver, an administrator with NASA’s Office of Communications, is enthusiastic about the fusion between education, information and the inspiration available to kids through the viral popularity of the Angry Birds game. Part of the excitement owns to the fact that kids will have access by both mobil app or at the space center.
Released two years after the original rollout of Angry Birds Space, the update introduces the Mighty Buzzard in honor of Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, as a replacement for the Mighty Eagle. Angry Birds Space’s marketing director, Marja Konttinen, explained that the desire to give Aldrin a special tribute was sparked by Apollo 11’s 45th anniversary. She furthermore described Rovio’s partnership with NASA as the ideal blend of education and entertainment that brings joy to people around the world by allowing them to experience the fascination of scientific missions into deep space firsthand.
As they head back into the classroom to navigate the rising tide of technology-based education, teachers and students alike can benefit from such forward thinking innovators in science education. In the mission of education, teachers know that tapping into the kids’ pre-existing body of experience is a powerful tool for motivating them to engage fully in the classroom. NASA’s injection of excitement into the classroom by sending Angry Birds on this mission allows teachers to leverage the influence of a game that many kids already love in order to raise the educational bar to new levels of excellence.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser