Project 1 Is there life on Mars?

STEM+C Projects

A Project-based STEM+Computing Inquiry

About

This project was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant Number 1640228. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Dazhi Yang at dazhiyang@boisestate.edu or use our Contact Form.

Description

This project-based scientific inquiry project: Is There Life on Mars? is centered on designing robots and testing them on a simulated Mars. In this project, students work in small groups to explore and research the existence of life on Mars. Then they design and develop robots to detect life on a simulated Mars. Students learn how to program related science and engineering concepts into the designing of robots using Mindstorms EV3 Legos. To develop computational thinking and an understanding of STEM subjects, students from 4th, 5th and 6th grade will work in small groups of six, with one in-service and one pre-service teacher, twice a week for eight weeks in a community centers after-school program.

Implementation

Please refer to the weekly activities (such as Week 1 Session 1 in the left sidebar and Resources from the sections below) for detailed information on how to use this project either in a classroom or an informal setting such as in community centers' after-school programs. The twice weekly sessions were originally designed to be 90 minutes in length, including a 10 minute break in the middle of the session. See photos of prior implementations on the projects' photo pages.


Week 2


Session 1
Questions

What is the environment of Mars?

Can we program using Move Steering, Loop, and Ultrasonic Sensor Blocks?


Goal

To understand the Mars and its environment, history, etc

To solve problems using Move Steering, Loop, and Ultrasonic Sensor Blocks


Activities

Research web resources on Mars and its environment

Explore Move Steering Block, Loop Block, and Ultrasonic Sensor Block in EV3 software

Write code using relevant blocks


Resources

Videos and Internet Resources, Worksheet 2, EV3 software


Outcomes

Descriptions on Mars environment

A short code using EV3 software

Session 2
Questions

How do we program to make robots sense color?

How do we build a Lego robot?


Goal

To solve problems using Color Sensor, Sound, Display, Switch, and Wait Blocks

To assemble a robot using the Lego Mindstorms robot kit


Activities

Write code using Color Sensor Block, Sound Block, Display Block, Switch Block, and Wait Block

To assemble a robot by following the provided instruction


Resources

EV3 Software, Worksheet 3, Building Guide from Lego, Robot kits


Outcomes

A short code using EV3 software

A partially assembled EV3 Robot

space

How can we detect life on Mars using a robot?


Entry Event 5 minutes

Direct students to watch approximately two minutes of this video:

Ask students how they would describe the environment of Mars to their friends if they went to Mars.


What is the environment of Mars? Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 20 minutes

Students research about Mars, the conditions, and environments on Mars to answer the research questions. They produce a group oral report or a PowerPoint Presentation on their research question(s).

Research Questions

Where is Mars? Answer 4th planet

How big is it? Answer Roughly 50% the size of Earth

Why is it red? Answer The dust/soil on the surface has iron it (it's rusty!)

How far from Earth is it? Answer Depends upon where in the orbit we are

What is the gravity on Mars? Answer 1/3 Earth’s gravity - How much would you weigh on Mars?

What is the atmosphere like? Answer It's far less dense than Earth

What is it made of? Answer About 95% carbon dioxide

What is the density of the air (how much air)? Answer 0.6% of Earth’s atmosphere (at sea level)

What would the wind feel like? Answer Like a slight breeze


Resources

NASA - What is Mars?

NASA - Mars Fact

Space.com - Mars' Atmosphere: Composition, Climate, & Weather

Planet for Kids - Mars

10 minute break

How can we program the Lego robots? (3 students share one EV3 set)


Can we program using Move Steering, Loop, and Ultrasonic Sensor Blocks? Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 30 minutes

Distribute laptops and Worksheet 2 to the students.

Have students read the Problem stated on Worksheet 2.

Have students research and explore relevant blocks needed to solve the problem on Worksheet 2.

Have a group discussion on the problem and possible solutions.

Have students test their solutions and debug.

Collect the finished worksheets.


Resources

Worksheet 2

Show EV3 Help" in the EV3 Software environment.

Introduction to Programming - Lego Mindstorms EV3


End of Session Reflection and Debriefing 5-10 minutes

Teacher briefly explains the computational thinking (CT) skill embedded in the problem solving process. Using the problem solving process diagram, the teacher will ask students to identify what kind of problem solving skills/process/computational thinking they used in this session and explain how they used it. The following are some sample questions that can guide the debrief.

What did I learn today?

What problem solving skills/processes or CT components in this diagram did I use today?

How did I use the problem solving skills/processes/CT components?

How can we detect life on Mars using a robot?


Entry Event 10 minutes

Teachers can ask the following questions:

How do robots detect water on Mars?

How do Lego robots detect water on a simulated Mars environment?

What are the components of a robot?


How do we program to make Lego robots detect colors? Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 30 minutes

Distribute laptops and Worksheet 3 to the students.

Have students read the Problem stated on Worksheet 3.

Have students research and explore relevant blocks needed to solve the problem on Worksheet 3.

Have a group discussion on the problem and possible solutions.

Have students test their solutions and debug.

Collect the finished worksheets.


Resources

Work Sheet 3 (Answers on the Resources Page)

"Show EV3 Help" in the EV3 Software environment.

Introduction to Programming - Lego Mindstorms EV3

10 minute break

How can we detect life on Mars using a robot?


Entry Event 5 minutes

A teacher asks following questions:

How do we assemble a Lego robot using teamwork?

What are some rules for teamwork?


How do we build a Lego robot? Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 30 minutes

Distribute laptops to the students.

Open up the instructions for robot building.

Start to build robot, steps 1- 45.

Note: It is possible to let multiple students work on building the robot at the same time. Steps that are parallel can be done at the same time. Steps 1-8, 9-13, 14-20 can be done in parallel. Steps 21-23 assemble the parts made so far. Steps 24-30 are independent of steps 21-23, and step 31 combines those parts together. Steps 32-42 attach the wheels and P-brick to the robot. And steps 43-45 attach the wires for the large motors.


Resources

Instructions for Robot Building


End of Session Reflection and Debriefing 5-10 minutes

Teacher briefly explains the computational thinking (CT) skill embedded in the Problem Solving Process Diagram. Using the problem solving process diagram, the teacher will ask students to identify what kind of problem solving skills/process/computational thinking they used in this session and explain how they used it. The following are some sample questions that can guide the debrief.

What did I learn today?

What problem solving skills/processes or CT components in this diagram did I use today?

How did I use the problem solving skills/processes/CT components?