Mars Rover

Fifth Graders Participate in: Mars - Project Touchdown Exploration

Landing on mars is tricky business. Spacecrafts often fly through space at speeds of around 17,500 miles per hour.  The challenge is how to slow down in an alien environment so we can land gently. Missions to explore outer-space often carry important robotics, scientific instruments and in the near future, people. Damage to these important items is not an option. 

Students worked together to develop a rover with a shock-absorbing lander system that can move on its own, down a ramp, the farthest distance forward possible. 

The available materials included: Index cards, cardboard, marshmallows, cotton balls, rubber bands, tape, cardboard, straws, plastic bags, popsicle sticks, tissue paper, coffee filters, newspaper, string

During this project, the students kept the following in mind: 

  • Patterns -  the relationship between the different variables 

  • Cause and Effect- weight of rover and the effect on the shock-absorbing lander

  • Scale, Proportion and quantity - weight of rover and the effect on the shock-absorbing lander

  • System and system models - the parts to both the lander and the rover are systems

  • Energy and matter-the greater the mass the greater the speed of the fall and of the roll

  • Structure and function- how well did the lander and the rover perform and did it perform well?

  • Stability and Change- the reliability of the rover and lander.

Throughout the planning they participated in: 

  • Asking questions and defining problems

  • Developing and using models to test solutions- encourage students to create smaller, more simple models to find the solution with the greatest potential

  • Planning and carrying out investigations- Creating a detailed plan to build 

  • Analyzing and interpreting data- perform small tests on the lander and rover to analyze its performance

  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions

  • Mathematical thinking

At the completion of the challenge, students participated in discussion of their findings. How does engaging in the engineering and design process help solve the problem? How does testing and data gathering help to improve a product? What are the factors that contribute to the distance a rover can roll? What factors make for a successful gentle landing? What design impacted landing accuracy?