June at campMODA: Mars 2020

 
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This June, a group of 23 4th-7th graders joined MODA for a truly out of this world camp—Mars 2020: Space Rover Design Camp.

Inspired by NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover mission to further investigate the surface of the red planet and figure out if there ever has been (or could be!) life on Mars, MODA developed this Mars 2020 camp to let kids learn about the science and design of rovers and try their hand at robotics themselves.

Camp started with a stellar lesson about the rovers already hard at work exploring space and how the scientists and engineers working on the Mars missions design them. Campers learned how rovers right now help scientists studying Mars—by collecting data, gathering samples from the planet’s surface, and exploring the extra-terrestrial terrain—and how their design allows them to fulfill these essential duties.

Then the real fun began: we asked the campers to come up with their own rovers, tasking them with the challenge of coming up with unique new uses for robots in space.

Over the course of the week, teams of campers used LEGO NXT robotics to prototype, refine, and test their robot creations. They figured out the tech behind LEGO robotics, used the Common Block Palette to code their bots, and learned the ins and outs of robot mechanics, all the while learning how to apply these new skills in design and engineering to real world challenges that scientists face every day.

These engineers and designers-in-training blew us away with their creativity and resourcefulness as in just one week they dreamed up and brought to life innovative rover prototypes that would fit in on any Mars mission.

Some of the bots were designed to transport technology (and even other rovers!) across rocky terrain. Others were made to gather and analyze geological samples from the planet’s surface. One team even envisioned and created a model that would play a game of soccer on Mars!

At the end of the week, MODA invited friends and family to the camp’s final showcase to see their rover designers’ final creations. Campers came into Mars 2020 excited to learn and left as incredible team members, confident creators, and budding designers, programmers, and engineers—and, of course, space rover experts.