Visualizing our Mars Colony A Middle School Coding Project at PDS

About Minecraft Mars

In Fall 2023, middle school students at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina, are working collaboratively to build a virtual Mars Colony using Microsoft MakeCode in Minecraft Education Edition.

Modeling their coding projects after the 3D printing designs of Austin-based ICON 3D, featured in a 60 Minutes segment in early October 2023, students are coding the "agent" (robot) in MinecraftEDU to autonomously mine for resources, build habitats and other needed infrastructure, farm vegetables and produce water to support life on the red planet.

The following images envision what a future Mars base or colony might look like. They are the result of human imagination powered by the generative AI capabilities of ChatGPT-4 and DAL-E 3.For some reason, ChatGPT was consistently resistent to covering all agricultural fields with protective, glass domes, in our iterative chat dialog. Full documentation of the prompts used to generate these images is available, along with more background about our "Minecraft Mars" coding unit and MakeCode discoveries!

Version 3: Photo of a futuristic Mars colony with interconnected buildings. The scene includes residential habitats with sleek designs, a secure facility with visible security features, expansive glass-domed farming greenhouses filled with crops, a network of rovers and launch pads with rockets, a clearly marked hospital building with advanced medical tech visible through windows, robust mining equipment in operation, sustainable energy solutions like solar panels and windmills, and a lush terrarium biodome. Enclosed passageways with airlocks connect all areas, ensuring safety and accessibility. In the sky, small drones are performing various tasks.

Version 4: Illustration of a Mars base showing diverse infrastructure and activities. It features living quarters arranged in a circular layout, a jail with high-tech monitoring systems, agricultural areas under protective domes with a variety of plants, multiple transportation hubs with empty and occupied launch pads, a state-of-the-art hospital facility, active mining zones with robotic arms and vehicles, energy sectors with arrays of solar panels and wind turbines, and a central terrarium with a rich ecosystem. Sealed corridors link every structure, with airlock chambers for emergency isolation. Small exploratory drones hover above, surveying the landscape.

Version 5: Photo of an extensive Mars colony with all farming and garden areas covered by glass domes to create an artificial atmosphere, protecting from the Martian environment. The base includes a central building connected to outbuildings via sealed corridors with airlocks for safe passage. The energy infrastructure is clearly visible with windmills and a large solar panel farm, providing sustainable power to the entire colony. The image should convey a self-sustaining, well-integrated community ready for long-term habitation.

Version 6: Photo of a fully developed Mars base designed by NASA and commercial space companies, with a focus on sustainability and security. The base features a variety of buildings: residential habitats with geometric architecture, a secure jail facility with surveillance systems, extensive farming areas all covered by glass domes ensuring a controlled atmosphere, a transportation hub with rockets on launch pads and others ready for launch, a medical bay with advanced life-support systems, an active mining site with automated machinery, and an energy sector powered by both solar panels and windmills. A terrarium with a rich biosphere represents the ecological efforts. All buildings are connected by a network of sealed, transparent corridors with airlocks at each junction to protect against external hazards. Small drones are flying overhead, monitoring the base's operations.

Version 7: Photo of a Mars colony with all farming areas enclosed in glass domes to simulate Earth-like conditions, ensuring no exposure to the Martian atmosphere. The image should depict a technologically advanced base with multiple domed structures dedicated to agriculture, each connected by sealed, transparent passageways with airlocks for safety. Unused spacecraft are positioned upright on launch pads, indicating readiness for departure. Windmills are strategically placed to harness wind energy, and extensive solar panel farms replace the outdoor fields, showcasing a commitment to renewable energy sources. The colony appears as a hub of activity with the integration of drones overhead, contributing to the dynamic and self-sustaining environment of this extraterrestrial settlement.

Version 8: Photo of a fully self-sustaining Mars colony where every agricultural field is enclosed within a glass dome, with no exposed fields to the Martian atmosphere. The colony layout includes a central hub with sealed, transparent corridors with airlocks connecting to various domed structures for habitats, security including fences, farming, transportation, hospital, mining, energy production, and terrariums. Spacecraft are on the launch pads, positioned upright for departure. Windmills are prominently featured, and the landscape is dotted with extensive solar panel farms, entirely replacing any open agricultural fields. The scene is bustling with activity, including drones in flight, showcasing a secure and advanced extraterrestrial settlement.

Version 9: A photo of a highly detailed Mars base in a realistic style, featuring a central building complex that serves as the hub for the colony. All around the central complex are glass domes of various sizes, each enclosing vibrant gardens and agricultural fields, creating a network of terrariums ensuring a controlled environment for plant growth. Extending from the central complex are connecting, sealed corridors with visible airlocks, linking each dome and outbuilding, ensuring safe passage for residents. The solar farm replaces any open-air fields, showcasing rows upon rows of solar panels. Windmills are strategically placed around the base, contributing to the energy supply. The perimeter is secured with a high-tech security fence. Rockets are positioned upright on launch pads, with some pads vacant, ready for future missions. The sky buzzes with small, exploratory drone aircraft. The entire scene conveys a bustling, self-sufficient Mars colony, with sustainability and security as its core features.

Version 10: A digital rendering of a Mars base from a bird's-eye view, showcasing a central hub surrounded by various structures, each dedicated to a specific function like habitats, a jail with security features, a medical bay, mining operations, and an energy sector with windmills. Interconnected with tubular, sealed passageways, these buildings form a cohesive colony layout. The agriculture is fully enclosed within glass domes, providing a greenhouse effect. A large solar farm takes the place of any open fields, contributing to the colony's energy grid. A security fence encircles the complex for protection. Several rockets stand on launch pads, some being prepared for launch, with engineers visible in the vicinity. Small drones patrol the skies, and the overall atmosphere is one of a thriving, futuristic Mars settlement, secure and advanced in its design.

To tell our story of creating this virtual simulation of our future Mars Colony, we are learning to use Scratch coding as well as Microsoft MakeCode for Minecraft, which is integrated within Minecraft Education software. The following two videos highlight some of our initial experiments with Scratch animation and automated / robot farming in MinecraftEDU.

These final videos highlight some of our inspiration from ICON3D, NASA, SpaceX, and NASA-sponsored competitions which have led to this shared vision of an (intially) 3D printed Mars Colony base infrastructure. More Mars-related videos are available on our project website.

Last updated 2 Nov 2023 by Wes Fryer. Project details on lessons.wesfryer.com/lessons/minecraft-mars

Project licensed CC-BY 4.0