Name of Unit Mars Rover
Author(s) Hannah Garfield & Kirsten Jorgensen
School Vinson Owen
Teacher Jill Pappas
Brief Description This unit’s theme is landing a rover on mars. The unit incorporates themes of testing and design iteration, service learning/biomedical engineering/human factors, and NXT robotics.
Grade(s) 5th (but could be adapted for others)
Keywords mars rover, NXT robotics, biomedical, service learning, parachutes, egg drop, space, human factors
Number of Weeks 10
Week 1 Intro to project and begin activity1 (Parachute). Talk to students about what they know about what a mars rover is, what it does, and why we would create one. Show NASA video: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.php?id=1090 Talk about parachutes – why we need them, what they do, what are characteristics of a successful parachute, etc. Have students plan some parachute designs, start building.
Week 2 Continue parachute project. Make sure students iterate design many times and test and record their data (duration of fall) frequently. Leave students a good amount of time at the end of class to present their designs and discuss which they thought worked best and why.
Week 3 Talk about impact – what it means and why it would be important to protect a Mars rover from experiencing hard impact. First showed educational video to discuss impact; little advanced, but gives them the basic idea. The second video is a series of crash tests that illustrate crumple zones and how to minimize impact (only front or sides crumple). http://plastics-car.com/Crumplezone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS_eC3O6uyw&feature=youtu.be Mimic sensitivity of Mars rover with a raw egg (in sealed plastic bag). Allow students time to plan structures to encase their delicate egg so that it would survive a large drop. Begin building. Gave them 2 eggs in total over this week and the next.
Week 4 Continue egg drop project. Make sure students iterate design many times and test and record their data (success of egg survival) frequently. Leave students a good amount of time at the end of class to present their designs and discuss which they thought worked best and why.
Week 5 Introduce problem: person constructing Mars rover or manning Marsrover (if you want to pretend it’s manned?) has a disability, but they need to perform the same tasks as an able-bodied person. Can they be helped with engineering Talk about importance of designing for the client. Pretend STOMPers are disabled client – let students interview them about what kind of tasks their job involves, what kind of device they could operate, if it’s comfortable, etc. Let students plan and then build. Tasks include pushing a button and picking up an object. We mostly focused on picking up objects to get them to construct joints.
Week 6 Continue biomed/human factors project.
Week 7 Start of Final Project:Time to design the rover itself! We made a Mars surface out of paper mache with craters so that they will be encouraged to make a design that isn’t a typical car. Introduce the main components of the NXT kit, notably that the brick is the brain and the motors. Let students start building and help them as they go. Encourage students to draw designs first, and encourage projects that aren’t just a car.NOTE: the majority of the students in our STOMP classroom have had some exposure to NXT robotics before this class
Week 8 Introduce idea of programming – highly specific instructions (maybe human robot?). Now that most of them have something built, give each student computer and help them code their projects. Continue with mechanical building as well.
Week 9 Continue to work on NXT project – building and programming. Allow students to begin testing robots on rocky terrain (make some sort of bumpy surface). If students finish early, encourage stronger structure for the robot to make it more stable. Leave a good amount of time at the end of the class for students to present their rover and explain why they designed it the way they did.

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