Student Activity #1: Driving Blind
Photo courtesy NASA
The objective of this activity is for you to modify a radio-controlled
car or truck to perform a mission without actually being there! This activity
simulates a mission Pathfinder's rover, Sojourner,
performed on Mars during the Summer of 1997. The mission will also have
implications to the Rocky7 rover
suggested for future
This is the ultimate remote control challenge--direct
a mechanical device to perform a set of operations without seeing what it
is doing! --what happened to Sojourner might
happen to you!
Photo courtesy NASA
The mission is to command your "rover" to move to a specific
location. Its job at this location is to perform an experiment and record
- View a video taped "panorama" made
by your teacher or the lander team. The
tape should be of a site that is not familiar to anyone in class and has
sand, pebbles, and rocks.
- Choose, as a class, the mission objective--where the rover is supposed
to go and what it is supposed to do there.
- Form teams for each component of the mission.
- Make a scale map of the site. Include major points of interest and
all obstacles. Click
here for an example taken from the Viking mission to Mars in 1976.
- Plan a route for the rover. A detailed list of instructions will be
needed for the rover navigators--how far for each movement forward, the
angle for each turn, etc.
- Modify a radio controlled car or truck to contain an experiment and
method of recording data. Experiments may be meteorological (temperature,
pressure, wind speed), geological (soil magnetics, soil temperature, rock
composition), or biological (evidence of water or "life"). This
becomes your "rover."
- Practice navigating the rover using time as the measure for
each maneuver -- forward __?__ seconds, right __?__ seconds, etc. Remember,
you will not be able to see the rover as it is moving!
- Execute the mission. Navigate the rover to its selected location. Command
it to perform the chosen experiment. All commands are given "blind,"
that is, no one may see the rover move. Information from the camera at
the site may be used to check positioning, BUT it must be delayed at least
a seven minutes after the last rover command. Additional mapping and planning
may be done, if needed, as decided by the class.
- Report on the mission. Write a report on how the mission went and what
was learned. Publish your report, if you like, to
this Web site for others to read. Make sure there is class consensus
on each answer before entering the report.
Ready, set, ...
- Read all instructions for the activity.
- Learn the responsibilities of the other teams.
- Follow the links above to learn more about the activity.
- Plan and execute your mission.
- Have fun!