Virtual Sojourner
Student Activity #1: Driving Blind

Teachers' Resources

Grade level: Grades 6 - 10.

Approximate time commitment: 10 - 12 hours.

Skills: mapping, measurement, writing, cooperative problem-solving.

Concepts: mapping, proportional reasoning.

Overview: students modify a radio-controlled car or truck to perform a mission without actually being there! They make a map of a "rock field" from a TV screen, convert a R/C car into a "Mars rover," develop an experiment for the rover, and guide the rover through the rock field without being in its physical presence. The procedures are executed within the context of a robotic mission to Mars. They will communicate, solve problems collaboratively, connect their experiences to actual space missions, develop research questions, and evaluate their work.

Learning objective: students use scientific knowledge and methods to collaboratively design and implement solutions to engineering problems.

Time management options:


Use a computer-based camera (such as a Connectix QuickCam) and radio-control to monitor the rover and execute instructions.
Restrict communication by using email, intercom, or radio to communicate with the Lander team.
Allow the publications team to video tape during planning and executing the mission. They can use some of the footage in their final report.

Outline of procedure (click underlined text for more details):

1. Prepare yourself by reading the Introduction and the responsibilities of each team (job descriptions).

2. Update students on Mars and the Pathfinder mission.

3. Prepare a "test rock-field" and have the entire class create scale maps of the test rock-field.

4. Select team members and a location for the "lander."

5. Establish a schedule for teams and monitor their work. Adjust as necessary.

6. Run a "mission." Repeat as interest or necessity dictates.

7. Organize the presentation of final reports for each team and submit the mission final report.


Additional Resources:

Mars Navigator CD can be ordered from Kurt Gramoll, 405-325-3171

JPL Video Archive

JPL Video catalog

Link to applicable AAAS Benchmarks, NAS Standards, and WA ELARs



Pathfinder Sojourner home page

Rocky7 rover

Long Range Science Rover

Micro Rover Photo Gallery



NASA Space Telerobotics Program "Cool Robot Of The Week"

Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics

Nakano Laboratory Public Home Page, active robots

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Robotics


Space Related resources--

NASA JSC Space Educators' Handbook

NASA Spacelink


Professional/Educational Organizations--

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

AAAS Project 2061

Benchmarks For Science Literacy

National Science Education Standards

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) for the state of Washington

Washington State Commission on Student Learning

Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) for Washigton State


Note: You may download a text version of the entire activity.