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TAME Engineering Adventure: Mars Rover State Challenge

TAME Engineering Adventure: Mars Rover State Challenge

Welcome to TAME Engineering Adventures! Every month we strive to bring you two engineering activities (this month we will provide one warm-up activity and one practice competition activity) that will help you challenge your students with hands-on learning. 

This January's Engineering Adventure is to design and build a Mars Rover! This was the 2013 State Engineering Design Challenge, and we’ve adapted it here for the classroom. It's a great way to get your TAME Club members to start thinking like engineers in preparation for our STEM Competitions.



Students building a Mars Rover in TAME's 2013 State Math and Science Competition


Introduction: How to think like an engineer

This handy graphic, courtesy of our friends at Iridescent's Curiosity Machine, is worth referring to throughout the year. The emphasis of each Design Challenge is not on winning, but on the collaborative design process. Every Challenge is an opportunity for students to practice both individual and collaborative problem-solving and to reflect on how they might improve for the next time.  


The Engineering Design Process, from Iridescent's Curiosity Machine: Inspiration, plan, build, test, redesign, (build, test, redesign, repeat as needed), reflect.



Warmup
Just what is a Mars Rover, anyway? For a warm-up, we suggest this great short video from our partner Curiosity Machine.


 
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Next, ask students to imagine what it would feel like to send a Rover to Mars, and to list all the things they imagine they need to do in order to make that happen. This TED Ed talk and lesson is a great jumping off point for discussion: How Curiosity Got Us to Mars - Bobak Ferdowsi. 

"In August 2012, the Curiosity rover landed on Mars. The landing itself was a huge achievement and required a lot of forethought and planning by a very smart team. In this TED Youth 2012 Talk, Bobak Ferdowsi, the mohawked member of that team, outlines various aspects of a Mars landing, including the Seven Minutes of Terror."

 

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Students building a Mars Rover in TAME's 2013 State Math and Science Competition




Competition Adventure: Mars Rover 2013 State Challenge

"Congratulations on being the first team of humans to reach Mars. Unfortunately, your spacecraft crashed upon impact and destroyed your Mars Rover. Your mission is to build a replacement self-propelled vehicle using debris gathered from the wreckage."

This PowerPoint presentation and these Team Instructions were used at the 2013 State Competition, and they will lead you through the Design Challenge from concept to scoring.  You can decide whether you want to follow the guidelines to a T, or simplify for your classroom.  


Primary objectives: Distance and accuracy.  You want your Rover to travel as far and as straight as possible.

Suggested time: 60 minutes

Suggested scoring: 
Points for each inch that the rover travels, plus bonus points if your rover travels at least 6 inches on all three runs. Additional awards can be given for creative designs.  See PowerPoint for scoring sheet and additional scoring categories. 

Suggested materials: 
Teachers, feel free to simplify by using materials on hand. In many cases the competitors did not use all the materials, so it is likely you can run this competition with what you have in your classroom.

MATERIALS: QUANTITY PER TEAM:
Craft sticks 12
Skewers 4
Dowels 2
Straws 8
Round balloons 3
Long balloons 3
Duct tape  
Clay 2 cups
Rubber bands 10
Gallon zip baggie 1
Small zip baggie 1
Cotton balls 10
Scissors 1 pair
Paper clips  
Corrugated cardboard  
Zip ties  
Pencil  
Sandpaper  
String  
   
SHARED:  
Glue gun and glue sticks  
Needle-nose pliers / wire cutters  



Team member roles:

 


Since one goal of TAME's competitions is to help students envision a future in a STEM career,  all team members are assigned roles, just like a real engineering team. Each person is expected to complete their assigned "deliverable" during the competition. Feedback from participants over the years suggests that this helps students speak up in their role even if they do not know their teammates. Students who use professional titles during the Engineering Design Challenge seem to take more pride in their work and be more likely to identify with a future in STEM. 
 
Process Engineer - Verifies that the team-designed rover has a name, team members have specific roles, and documentation is complete. She/he will make sure the team finishes on time.

Propulsion Engineer - Leads the team in designing, building and testing a propulsion method that will move the rover. Remember that the rover must be self-propelled (cannot be pushed to start).
 
Design Engineer - Leads lead the overall design and is responsible for including the design drawing(s) in the documentation. She/he will lead the team in developing a strategy to maximize points earned.

Structural Engineer - Leads the team in designing a strong vehicle that moves well. She/he will visit the fabrication station and use the tools/glue efficiently. 
 
Production Engineer - Leads the building phase of the competition. She/he will ensure that all the materials and tools provided are considered by the team when building the rover. 

Test Engineer - Serves as the team’s representative during judging. She/he will set up the rover propulsion system during testing. 
 
 
Downloading the free materials:

Ready to tackle the challenge? You can download a PDF version of the 2013 Engineering Design Challenge Team Instructions using the button below. Click here to download the 2013 Engineering Design Challenge PowerPoint Presentation to introduce students to this challenge.


TAME Competition Engineering Adventure


Students building a Mars Rover in TAME's 2013 State Math and Science Competition

Post-challenge reflection:

These activities are a great chance for students to observe the joys and frustrations of collaborative design.  Once the competition is over, ask your students to reflect on their experience.  Was it easy to work with a team? What was easy and what was hard? What would each student do differently the next time?  What would they do the same?  


Bonus:


Check out this TED Ed talk and lesson by Ainissa Ramirez, teacher, materials scientist and science communicator: Magical metals, how shape memory alloys work - Ainissa Ramirez. "From robots to braces to the Mars Rover, see how a special kind of metal called shape memory alloys advance technology in everyday ways that we don’t always realize."

Students will love following Curiosity Rover on Twitter, as it sends out photos like this road trip to Bagnold Dunes on Mars, interesting facts, and questions like this one: "OK, gumshoes. I found silica. Lots. Did water deposit it or strip other compounds away?"



 

Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS) for this Adventure

Middle School TEKS Tie-Ins:

6th Grade Science

  • Investigate the relationship between force and motion of the Rover using a variety of means, including calculations and measurements
  • Measure and graph changes in motion when testing the Rover
  • Discuss the history and future of space exploration, including the types of equipment and transportation needed for space travel

6th Grade Math

  • Generate ratios, fractions, and decimals with the measurements of the Rover while constructing
  • Represent data graphically with dot plots, stem-and-leaf plots, histograms, or box plots to evaluate results of the Rover

7th Grade Science

  • Identify advantages and limitations of different designs such as size, scale, properties, and materials

7th Grade Math

  • Solve mathematical and real-world problems involving similar shape and scale drawings of the Rover
  • Compare data represented in bar graphs, dot plots, and circle graphs and can use to compare different designs of Rovers

8th Grade Science

  • Demonstrate and calculate how unbalanced forces affect the speed or direction of the Rover’s motion

8th Grade Math

  • Create graph and plots to understand the relationships of data gathered about the Rover

High School TEKS Tie-Ins:

 

Geometry

  • Have students sketch the top, side and front views and use those views to find the surface area of the Rover's wheels, chassis, and other components
  • Help identify two-dimensional shapes of different cross sections of the three-dimensional shapes of the Rover

Physics/Integrated Physics and Chemistry

  • Students can collect data and make measurements with precision and record data using International System (SI) units
  • Organize, analyze, evaluate, make inferences, and predict trends from data; and communicate valid conclusions
  • Describe and calculate the Rover's motion in terms of position, displacement, speed, and acceleration
  • Students can measure and graph distance and speed as a function of time using the moving Rovers; and investigate how the Rover's motion changes only when a net force is applied
  • Assess the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration, noting the relationship is independent of the nature of the force
  • Students can develop and interpret free-body force diagrams of their Rovers
  • Describe and analyze results of the Rover with the concepts of distance, displacement, speed, average velocity, instantaneous velocity, and acceleration

 Astronomy/Earth & Space Science

  • Understand the importance of ground-based technology like the Rover in astronomical studies


 

Looking for more? 

Many of these ideas come from our curated idea boards on Pinterest. If you liked these, you'll love our Engineering: Activities for All Ages board!

With over 4,000 pins organized into 47 different boards, TAME's Pinterest presence is specially curated to help teachers, parents, and students of all ages get excited about STEM. 


TAME Engineering Adventure: Mars Rover State Challenge


By Jessie Temple and Lindsey Carmichael, January 14, 2016.

·         6th Grade

o   Students can design and implement experimental investigations by making observations, asking well-defined questions, formulating testable hypotheses, and using appropriate equipment and technology

o   Analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student

o   Students can identify advantages and limitations of the crane models such as size, scale, properties, and materials

o   Compare and contrast potential and kinetic energy

o   Identify and describe the changes in position, direction, and speed of an object when acted upon by unbalanced forces

o   Measure and graph changes in motion

o   Students can investigate how inclined planes and pulleys can be used to change the amount of force to move an object.

·         7th Grade

o   Students can design and implement experimental investigations by making observations, asking well-defined questions, formulating testable hypotheses, and using appropriate equipment and technology

o   Analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student

o   Students can identify advantages and limitations of the crane models such as size, scale, properties, and materials

o   Students can contrast situations where work is done with different amounts of force to situations where no work is done such as moving a box with a crane and without a crane, or standing still

·         8th Grade

o   Students can design and implement experimental investigations by making observations, asking well-defined questions, formulating testable hypotheses, and using appropriate equipment and technology

o   Analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student

o   Students can identify advantages and limitations of the crane models such as size, scale, properties, and materials

o   Demonstrate and calculate how unbalanced forces change the speed or direction of an object's motion

o   Students can investigate and describe applications of Newton's law of inertia, law of force and acceleration, and law of action-reaction such as in vehicle restraints, sports activities, amusement park rides, Earth's tectonic activities, and rocket launches….

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