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LIVE FROM MARS: Educators Classroom Connection

JFK Middle School
Northampton, MA
Aimee Hall

Aimee Hall's class designs and builds Mars rover models

Description We are from JFK Middle School in Northampton, MA. These 8th grade science students worked on creating rovers after completing the introductory "Live from Mars" activities, including watching the Countdown video.

This project was based on the article "Mars Exploratory Vehicles" by Thea L. Canzio, Larry A. Lebofsky, and Nancy R. Lebofsky. This article appeared in the February '97 edition of Science Scope.

In this project small groups of students plan a mission to accomplish a specific scientific task on Mars. They must conduct Internet research to find the information they will need to successfully plan the mission. Then they select a landing sight and design a vehicle to accomplish the task. Next they build a model of the vehicle. Finally the group must present their ideas to the class and defend their plan.

Each group of students received their own task. For example: You must look for fossils of microscopic, ancient life in the river beds and canyons of Mars. The vehicle must be able to photograph samples taken from sites and perform some analysis of the samples.

The group members began researching their topic using classroom magazine articles, books, and material I had printed out from the Internet. Once they had a general idea of what they would need to do, they broke their mission up into 3 areas: mobility, instrumentation, and landing. Each person in the group became responsible for one of these areas, with the support of the other group members.

We then spent 2 class periods doing Internet research on specific questions the group had developed. I suggested the following sites for their search.

Live from Mars
Weather, climate and life on Mars FAQ
Center for Martian Exploration
Mars Multi-scale Map

An Introduction to Mars
The Geological History of Mars

Students developed specifications for mobility, landing and instrumentation. Then they invented specific proposals to fulfill their specifications. Once they had completed a landing site proposal and vehicle design, they began building a model of their vehicle.

Finally they presented their proposal to the class. Their grade was dependent on their final presentation. Class members critiqued each proposal and evaluated its chance of success.