IEEE Mars Space Colony Game Teaches Technical Standards

Budding engineers will gain a better understanding of the process for developing standards for electric cars

2 min read

Joanna Goodrich is the associate editor of The Institute

Image of the Mars Space Colony Logo
Image: IEEE

THE INSTITUTEMany organizations and agencies are working on sending humans to Mars. Before that can happen, though, a lot of decisions have to be made. One is what kind of vehicle people will use to get around. Although that question might seem simple enough, many factors play into that choice, including technical standards.

To help prepare the engineers of tomorrow who are likely to make those decisions is the Mars Space Colony: A Game of Standardization developed by IEEE Standards University, a joint program of the IEEE Standards Association and IEEE Educational Activities. This standards development simulation game aims to give participants a better understanding of the process of developing technical standards by putting them into the roles of working group members. They will work towards building consensus on the technology to be implemented for the electric cars to be used on the Red Planet.

Standard development groups work to write standards for technologies that meet specific market and technical needs. The groups consist of technical experts and interested stakeholders from academia, government, and non-governmental organizations from around the world. The working group members build consensus on the technical requirements of the standard.


In the game’s simulation, aerospace companies and space agencies from around the world will be sending 100 of their employees to colonize Mars in 2022.  

Groups of 10 to 12 participants are tasked with making four main technical standards decisions: whether the vehicles will be driven on the left- or right-hand side of the road, how the vehicles will be charged, what type of charging connector will be used, and whether a wireless or a hard-wired connection will be used to send information from the vehicle to the charging station.

Along the way, the players will encounter not only technical challenges but also economic and political realities. They’ll also learn how different stakeholders can influence their choices.


A game master, or facilitator, leads the groups, and each participant receives a role. There is a chair, who ensures all participants have the opportunity to express their opinions and that votes on the suggested standards are duly noted. Another role is that of recording secretary, who takes minutes of the group sessions and records the decisions. Additional working group roles include representatives from intellectual property holders, large companies, and startups. Participants all have to work together and come to consensus about the four standardization questions even though their interests may conflict.

The game can be obtained for a yearly licensing fee.

For more information, contact Jennifer McClain, senior standards education and business development manager with IEEE Educational Activities, at or +1 732 562 6355

Learn more about Mars Space Colony: A Game of Standardization from IEEE Educational Activities.Video: IEEE Educational Activities

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