With This App, You Can "Walk" on Mars
NASA is planning to send a human crew to Mars in the 2030s. That means the first person to set foot on the red planet is already alive. But beyond the International Space Station, our manned missions to space have fallen off. How can we inspire the next generation to look to the stars?
Many of us grew up thinking Word Munchers or Blues Clues were the height of interactive, educational technology. Well, instead of "dying from dysentery" along the Oregon Trail, today's kids will get to simulate walking on Mars with a little help from virtual reality — and plant the seeds for future careers in STEM at the same time. Matt Damon, eat your heart out.
It's Never Too Early to Start Learning STEM
STEM is an acronym for "science, technology, engineering, and mathematics." The term was coined by the National Science Foundation and started to become commonplace in the early 2000s. For the United States to compete on a global scale, promoting STEM careers will be crucial in developing emerging technologies. Advocates of STEM believe children should be exposed to those subjects at an early age. The trick is making STEM learning tools age-appropriate, interesting, and engaging.
To foster an early love of STEM, Lockheed Martin created a program for kids called Generation Beyond. The most impressive initiative of the program may be the Mars Walk app, which the company says "provides a fun, interactive, and educational tour of the red planet in a stunning virtual reality experience." (We can confirm, it's fun for adults, too.)
You've Never Had a Video Game Like This!
When you download the app, slip your phone into a virtual reality headset (or just hold it), and you'll be able to explore a computer-generated landscape of Mars. Walk around and collect various virtual artifacts, then return to your space module to learn more. You can even visit our little buddy, the Curiosity rover. As you explore the surface, a narrator shares the history of our previous missions and information we've learned so far.
In addition to the Mars walk app, Generation Beyond provides downloadable lessons for teachers and parents to learn more about STEM and support their kids' learning experience. The platform also has applications for users to zoom across the solar system and see other important sites. Students can also play interactive games about deep space and watch videos created by other users.
Someday soon, we'll pay a visit to the planet in person. But in the meantime, the app is a nice substitute.