Science of Mars brought to the classroom

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The science of Martian exploration is being brought into the classroom thanks to a project aimed at disadvantaged students and those in rural areas.

The Roving with Rosalind project launched during National Astronomy Week – which runs until November 22 – and is offering science out-reach for students aged seven to 14.

It is inspired by the Rosalind Franklin rover, which is due to touch-down on Mars in 2023 as part of the joint European-Russian ExoMars mission to search for traces of life on the red planet.

Schools can sign up to borrow one of five kits of practical science experiments and can take part in a suite of online activities, each linked to national science curricula. The activities are accompanied by video introductions from real space scientists.

Many of the resources and activities can be carried out without the physical kits themselves with more information available on the project’s STEM Learning page (see below).

An online event on Thursday (November 19), organised as part of the Mars-focused National Astronomy Week, will offer more information for teachers and pupils.

Each kit contains a large map of the Oxia Planum area of Mars, where the rover will land. Pupils will be able to explore the map using LEGO rovers they design and build for themselves, planning routes to points of interest where they will complete tasks to unlock “downloads” of data from Mars to analyse. Those experiments will include elements of spectroscopy, physics, maths, engineering, programming and other skills.

The pandemic has disrupted preparations for the project as the organisers will now need to quarantine each physical kit between sessions in schools, but to make up for any lost opportunities they have developed online versions of the activities in each kit.

New activities have been added as well, such as the opportunity to control a virtual rover using the scratch programming language.
The project has been organised by Áine O’Brien and Sara Motaghian, two Scottish planetary science PhD students, with funding from the UK Space Agency, and has been designed specifically to reach pupils who do not live within easy reach of a science centre or university. The project is also offering online training for teachers.

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