The title alone contains a double meaning, at least for me. When I first read the word Kodu I was unsure of its meaning. Was it a distant cousin to African gazelle like ungulate the Kudu? Was it some sort of Klingon word? What the heck is Kodu?
I immediately quelled my curiosity and began reading all I could. Kodu, a Microsoft project, is a neat visual programming language that allows kids (even big ones) to create games for both PCs and the Xbox game console. The visual language is excellent for helping kids break complex problems into smaller steps, to solve a difficult problems and its cartoonish game nature is non-threatening.
The language/game is fun, but helping kids hone early logic and problem solving skills in the guise of gamification is the real innovation here. Kids have fun while learning and not just like most crappy edutainment games, but, similar to building a city and its infractructure within Sim City, building the game is the largest part of the fun.
Kodu feels like it has LEGO mindstorm DNA, and looking at the design and audience it seems to have gained some inspiration from the Mindstorm project. One major advantage is that Kodu is completely free, you only need an Xbox or a computer then download the software and begin. Mindstorm basic starter kits will set you back $279.99 plus shipping, making it slightly less accessible than Kodu.
If all of this weren't enough (sounding like a cheesy TV ad now, but this is for science, so it's ok), Microsoft, in conjunction with JPL is working on a Curiosity Kodu Mars Experience! It isn't available yet but when it is, youngsters will be able to virtually, beam lasers at rocks, analyze mars substances, program curiosity to perform tasks and much more.
An entire syllabus for classroom use is available online here, and it looks like a very exciting and stimulating project.
These opportunities may help us find the next Einstein, Adam Steltzner, or Carl Sagan. If we stimulate a young mind to become a great mind then any effort put towards projects like this are invaluable.