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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

The Great Mars Rover Challenge

Day Two was for the older camp kids, grades 4-6. They started with a warm-up challenge of moving a collection of cups into a pyramid shape and placing a toy animal on the very top with out touching the cup with their hands (feet and mouths were forbidden as well). Toolkits included some straws, rubberbands and string.

Next we moved on to following the Engineering Design Process of Asking Questions, Brainstorming & Planning, Creating, Testing and Revising our Mars Satellites.

As in most situations the favorite part was the construction. The students jumped into building their satellites with the various materials. Some followed their initial plans, others freewheeled a new idea as they moved along. Many worked together as a cohesive team, but not all. The creation of collaboration and cohesive teamwork is always an ongoing process which requires much thought and planning from the teaching perspective.

The morning was not over when the satellites were created! Next, we needed to figure out the best configuration for the launching device: a long string, different length straws and balloons. I would have liked to have had different sized and shaped balloons but all we had were smallish, very explodable ones - so that is what we used. There were balloons being blown up everywhere, with the inevitable "POP" and look of surprise. I yelled, "HuPa!", as if it was good luck and it seemed to suffice. After some trials (and tribulations) we determined that the medium-sized straw with two balloons served for the best launch power so then all we needed to do was to add the satellites and let them fly! On to Day #3...

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