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 8


Session 1
Questions

How can we program our robot for detecting water on the Mars simulation?


Goal

To devise strategies to help robot navigate on the Mars simulation

To write code based on the strategy

To debug when the programs run into trouble


Activities

Program the robot to navigate the Mars simulation and detect water


Resources

Mars simulation

space

space


Outcomes

Codes for Lego robots to explore Mars simulation

Session 2
Questions

Who (Which team) is the fastest at exploring life on Mars?


Goal

To explore Mars efficiently with Lego robots (Competition)

space

space


Activities

Explore the Mars simulation with the robot to detect water


Resources

Mars simulation

A timer

Final competition evaluation form


Outcomes

Lego robots detect water on the Mars

How can we detect life on Mars using a robot?


Entry Event 10 minutes

Teacher asks the follow questions:

1. What are some of the strategies you use to avoid obstacles?

2. What are some of your strategies to debug?


How can we program our robot to detect water on the Mars simulation? Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 55 minutes

Directions

Display a photo of Mars simulation on screen and distribute laptops.

Students write down how they would command the robot to detect water from different starting points (strategy) in their note book.

Students share their strategy with their group and identify a best strategy in the group.

Students convert their strategy into codes.

Check students' progress and facilitate the students' thinking process.

Depending on students' thinking style, there are two ways to approach the problem: 1) Work on the overall logic first (how to determine which starting point the robot is at. Hint: Using If-then logic and the Switch Block); 2) Work on the specific point first (what the robot will do at the specific starting point).

If students have problems creating the strategy, have students write a strategy for a specific starting point to begin with.


Resources

"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 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?

How can we detect life on Mars using a robot?


Student Post Survey 20 minutes

Have students fill out the post survey before the competition begins. Return the surveys to the researchers on site.


How can we detect life on Mars? 60 minutes Competition Day

The purpose of this contest is for the students to navigate and detect life on the Mars simulation with the final robots. The final robot must be the fastest and the most accurate to reach the finish line. Students will be able to combine what they have learned in the previous lessons to master the basics of robotics. Make sure all sensors are working and the final robot is moving and turning at the right speeds and directions.


Simulated Mars
Image of a Simulated Mars
Teacher announces the rules again. Depending on students' progress, rules may be modified.

Finding Water on Mars Competition Rules:

Three runs for each robot (starting point as marked)

For each run, the robot will be placed in a specific location (marked in the photo above) with a specific heading/orientation. The water (green paper) will be placed in a known location, somewhere near the middle.

The robot will need to make a sound (whatever each team wants) when the robot finds the “water”.

The score for each run will be the amount of time it took to find the “water”. The times will be added together for the final score of each robot.

The maximum time for each run three minutes. If the robot doesn’t cooperate, for whatever reason, the team can pick it up, move it back to the starting position, and try again. Repeat this until the three minutes are up. The time will keep running until the robot finds the water (don’t reset the timer when they pick up and restart the robot) and that will be their score for that run. If the robot fails to find the water in three minutes, the maximum time is recorded.

The team with lowest time/score wins.


Resources

The Mars Simulation

Timer

Final Competition Evaluation Sheet


Competition Judging Criteria

The shortest time of the total three runs


Reminder

Please help make sure all students' work/artifacts/journals are collected by the project team;

All students have completed a post survey at the end of the program


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?

Session 1

Simulation of Mars

"Show EV3 Help" in the EV3 Software environment.

Introduction to Programming - Lego Mindstorms EV3

Session 2

Simulation of Mars

A timer

Final Competition Evaluation From