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Make your own Rover!

Submitted by: Rosemary Shaw, Millennium Middle School, Sanford, FL

Subjects: Science, Mathematics, Language Arts, Technology, Computer Science, Geography

Grades: Elementary and Middle

Materials Required:
Old Remote controlled car (any kind!) that still works, tin foil (or silver paper), solar panels, small motor, pencils, Styrofoam, TV with cable access, computers with network access, VCR, digital cameras, pencils, tape, scissors, glue and lots of imagination

Students will utilize the Internet, html, digital cameras, use of scanners and the basics of essays for this project.

Objectives: Students will be able to do the following:
-- Analyze information and solve the given problems.
-- Learn to write essays in proper form to present their information.
-- Learn about copyrights, plagiarism and appropriation of material from the web.
-- Gather data using the Internet.
-- Understand the geological terms that identify landforms
-- Identify significant landforms found on Earth and another planet
-- Make metric conversions
-- Understand the concept of scale
-- Describe at least one recent finding about the planet of their choice
-- Describe the features that make the Earth different from any other planet.
-- Understand the concept of solar panels.
-- Use HTML and advanced web design techniques to create web pages as a
showcase for their projects.


Activity 1
Research the terrain of Earth. Have students learn about the different types of landforms generally found on Earth. View topographical maps.

Activity 2
Assign a salt map
For salt dough:
1. mix 2 parts flour
2. 1 part salt and 1 part water.
3. Add a bit more water if it's crumbly.
4. Mold, let dry and paint.

Activity 3
Discuss means of gathering information. Brainstorm with students, different means of gathering information. As discussion continues, slip in gathering information from other planets.

Activity 4
Research NASA's fact-finding missions to other planets. These should include, but are not limited to all of the Mariners, Pioneers, Vikings and Voyagers. Assign students a short research project (using the 5 paragraph essay form) about one of NASA's fact-finding missions. (Each student given different missions) Have students present them in chronological order for the class. Best and most research done for this project is via the Internet.

Activity 5
Discuss the Moon Rover with the students. Students could watch a video of the lunar landing and then discuss the need for the rover.

Activity 6
Choose another planet (or moon of a planet) to research focusing on terrain. Have students identify significant landforms of the chosen planet.

Assign a salt map showing a selected section of their planet.

Activity 7
Discuss with students the need for rovers, and research Pathfinder and upcoming 2003 Mars Exploration Rover mission. Have students work in groups to research the findings sent back by these rovers.

Activity 8
Make a model from the JPL website. Go to: and download the model they have of Pathfinder.

Have students understand the measurements of the Pathfinder. This is a perfect
time to teach scale and metric conversions. Using the model from JPL, compare
the scale to the real Pathfinder. Also, (or instead) you can discuss how many
scientists use nothing but metric measurements and how conversions must be
made. Then convert the measurements of the real Pathfinder to metric, and
convert the measurements of the scaled down model. Also, convert the weight of
the Pathfinder to metric.

Activity 9
Create your own remote controlled rover! Using a remote controlled car, (which your students now know is about the size of a real rover) you can cover it with tin foil to give it the metallic look so desired by most students!

Using solar panels (available at Radio Shack for around $3.50) and the small
motor (also Radio Shack around $3.00) and a pencil you can make your own
radar/transmitter. Using the solar panels gives the opportunity to talk about
life of batteries, and how one could not replace a regular AA battery on Mars.
But the use of the solar panels allow for a power source that does not have to
be replaced every few hours! (plus, if you use a battery on the small motor it
will make your radar spin too fast!)

You can then attach something (we used Styrofoam balls cut in half) to represent a radar, and discuss what other instruments can be used on rovers. Something could represent a camera, also. (We used the school-supplied webcam, attached to a laptop and walked around the school with the rover filming)

Use your imagination and your research to attach instruments to your rover.

Activity 10
Create a rover 'course' that will simulate the terrain on the chosen planet and
see if your rover can negotiate the hills and valleys and around obstacles.

Activity 11
Take lots of pictures and make a web page of your research, highlighting the
class rover!

FirstGov NASA
Curator: Drew Price
NASA Official: Lucien Junkin
Last Updated: June 19, 2019
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