Ever try getting someone home that is 34 million miles away? When communication is spotty, and material is limited, it becomes a challenge as a technology class from Elton Gregory Middle School found out as they attempted to save, “Watney”, who was stuck on Mars. If you recall the movie, “The Martian”, you will have remembered that Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, was trying to reach the Mars site for the next NASA Mission to Mars. In order to do so, he had to make sure his Mars rover could travel 3200km with all the supplies necessary to keep him alive. In comes Sphero! In teams of 4, students worked as communication specialists, engineering/designers, and programmers to get Sphero (played as the Rover) to travel a given pathway WITHOUT being able to be there.
As student “Watney’s” hung out on Mars with nothing but a chromebook, a Sphero and some measuring tape, the NASA teams stayed on Earth, with another chromebook as their only form of communication. Students could not go to the other location or “shout” possible ways of getting the Rover through the pathway WITH a supply container. The challenge was real, but as the hour continued, students began to realize how they could figure out what the pathway looked like on Mars, as well as what coding was needed to program Sphero to get through it. Engineers and Designers built a way for Sphero to carry the supplies and not disrupt how Sphero traveled successfully on the path. In the end, though not one Watney made it to the required destination on time, a few teams came very close! Aha’s were made along the way about how each team could have worked more efficiently, as well as suggestions for improvements in programming and engineering of the storage container carrier. Want to do something like this in your classroom? Check out the lesson plan link here or contact Vickie Perryman for more information!