The RoR simulator is
really fun, but does it
have a place in a school
Once you’ve gotten the hang of driving
around, you’ll probably notice that many
of the vehicles have special controls.
For example, you’ll find a number of
trucks with cranes and lifts. When you’re
in a vehicle, press the T key to see any special controls for that vehicle. Typically, if
there are special parts, they are controlled
with the function keys. Many maps have
a pad with a small control panel available.
You can access this panel (or the Sum-mon;Vehicle;menu);to;get;access;to;vari-ous loads, such as oil cans, hay bales, and
shipping containers. Find a truck with a
winch, and manipulate the truck so the
winch is touching the wire harness of the
load. You can then use the L key to latch
onto the load; then drop it onto your truck
and hit the O key to tie the load in place.
(This sometimes takes a lot of practice,
the load and move it around. If you crash
one of your vehicles, you can get a tow
truck, pick up the broken vehicle, and return it to the garage for repair.
Mt. St. Helens is one of the nicest maps
for beginners, but there are many more.
Be sure to play around with the various
maps to find tons of interesting routes
and landscapes. You’ll find monorails,
off-road tracks, a monster truck stadium,
rock-climbing venues, and a Formula
One track among many additional, interesting terrains.
simulator pilots will have problems
landing the planes gracefully. Still, flying around the scenery can be a huge
amount of fun. RoR supports both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. I found the
default helicopters quite difficult to fly,
but the CH 54 available through the repository is quite fun to fly and even has a
hook so you can carry cargo and vehicles
You can also summon boats, either by
driving to a marina (available on the Mt.
boats can be great fun to drive, and for
even more fun, you can turn on waves
with the configuration program that
comes with RoR. You can also use the
same Configuration tool to modify the
screen size, input commands, and more.
Airplanes, Helicopters, and
Cars and trucks are not the only vehicles in this simulator. You can also summon aircraft and boats. In the North St.
Helens map, you’ll find an airport right
behind the car lot. Walk to the airport
and go inside. You’ll see a list of aircraft
you can choose. The P- 51 might be the
aircraft to fly.
Use the ctrl-Home command to turn
on the engines. Then use PgUp to add
throttle, and finally the arrow keys to control the plane in flight. While the flight
model is quite powerful, the controls
are very twitchy, so even experienced
Extending the Experience
RoR comes with a dizzying range of built-in vehicles, but you can download even
more! Go to the repository to find dozens of aircraft, tractors, off-road vehicles,
terrain maps, and more. You might also
experiment with the multi-player option,
to participate in multi-player events.
Once you’ve explored all the default
data the program provides, you can build
your own vehicles and landscapes. Look
into the wiki pages available here.
Note that building your own models can be quite involved, but as you go,
you’ll be learning 3D modeling, math,
and physics, so by all means give it a try.
(Watch this column for a series of articles
launchers or evil creatures. There is some
violence, as you’ll realize if you’ve watched
me try to land an airplane, but harming
others is not part of the experience.
A simulation isn’t really a game, but
it is an opportunity to explore. The Rigs
of Rods tool can open up a fascinating
world of vehicles. The accurate physics
model gives you the opportunity to ask a
number of interesting questions and provide interesting challenges. For example,
you might challenge your kids to move a
box from a warehouse to a boat, across
a bay to an airstrip, onto a helicopter,
and back to the landing pad. Or you can
use a crane to build a stack of shipping
containers. Or you might talk about why
most of the cranes have “feet” and how
center of gravity changes when you are
carrying a heavy load. Whatever you do,
do it together, and have fun!
*Note to Parents: Please monitor your
child's use of this site. Everyone has different standards to identify questionable
content, and we strongly recommend that
you monitor all of your child's interaction
It’s Fun, but Is It School?
The RoR simulator is really fun, but does it
have a place in a school environment? It all
depends on how you use it. Kids are fascinated by video games, and here’s a gamelike environment. There are no rocket
Andy Harris is a homeschool dad, father of
four great kids, and husband to the greatest
homeschool teacher ever. He has taught all
ages of students, from kindergarten to university level. Andy is the author of a number of
well-known books, including
Programming for the Absolute Beginner,
and Beginning Flash Game Programming
for Dummies. For more information about
his books, to see where he is speaking next, or
to just say hi, please stop by his website: www