The purpose of this activity was to simulate a rover mission to Mars using programmable LEGO robots. The mission also incorporated physics and mathematics concepts that related position to velocity and acceleration and included some critical thinking questions concerning mission planning. The activity started with preflight testing of the rover prototype, with velocity and acceleration being calculated from measurements of the motion of the rover along a pre-determined length. After the pre-flight activities were completed, the participants were treated to a NASA simulated video that shows the launch, flight, atmospheric re-entry, landing, and mission activity of a Mars Exploration Rover. Upon completion of the video, the participants worked with their own simulated rover, watching it embark from the lander and move around on the simulated Martian surface, taking data and scratching the surface as it went along. The opportunity to modify the on-board program of one of the rovers was postponed due to lack of time, but the participants were able to perform most of the activity of the module and learn how a rover mission to Mars works, as well as learn how to incorporate programmable LEGOs into math and science curricula.
This activity was an expansion of what the Eisenhower High School participants did last semester. In the current case, two pre-built roller coasters were presented and the participants asked to make measurements of key features of the roller coasters. Each roller coaster was equipped with a pair of Smart Timer photogates which enabled measurements of velocity and acceleration. A ping pong ball and a wooden pendulum bob provided two means to gauge the energy carried along by the moving roller coaster trains. In this module, participants learned how to use K’Nex in Mathematics and Physics instruction, including concepts of energy conservation and conversion. In addition to the live roller coaster models, they were presented with an adjustable computer simulated 2 dimensional roller coaster with which they were able to adjust key parameters and see how these adjustments affected performance.
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