MISSION TO MARS

Stage 3: HOW CAN WE LIVE ON MARS?

The final stage of the Mission to Mars project focuses on how humans might be able to live on and explore Mars.

Students will build on the heat transfer concepts they learned during the landing phase to construct habitats for the crew and a means to explore the new world. In this stage, students were challenged to design and build a passive solar home that would hold sufficient heat to keep the astronauts alive on Mars and create a vehicle that they could use to travel across the Mars landscape.

PHASE 1 - PASSIVE SOLAR HOMES

Students were challenged to build a Passive Solar home that is heated using only thermal energy from the sun. They were given a lot of latitude in terms of construction materials and insulation, but the goal was for the homes to maintain a temperature of 22 -28 degrees Celsius on the testing day and the home could not be larger than 40 cm wide x 40 cm long x 45 cm high. Students had to answer questions during the design and build process about construction materials, exterior color of their homes (based on a lab they did testing which color paper absorbed the most heat from a light bulb), number of doors and windows, and insulation material, thickness and placement.

On testing day, the students arranged their homes outside on a tarp and measured the outside temperature and the temperature inside their homes at regular intervals throughout the day - recording their data and any changes they made to their homes during that period.

PHASE 2 - MARS ROVER

Students used a variety of materials to create solar powered vehicles that could transport their astronaut around Mars. The vehicle motors were powered by solar panels, but a small battery pack was used on cloudy days.

The rovers were tested for stability, speed, alignment (ability to move in a straight line). The first tests were indoors in the Middle School Science hallway using the built-in motors on a course created with blue tape. Students were able to make changes and adjustments to their cars after each trial run. Later, the students took their vehicles outside on a sunny day to test the effectiveness of the solar panels and traction of their vehicles on outdoor surfaces. Again, they were able to make adjustments as needed. The final test was a Solar Rover Race - held in the gym on the rainy last day of school. Unfortunately, the students had to use batteries to power the motors due to the weather conditions, but everyone enjoyed the competition that marked the completion of the Mission to Mars unit.

Here are the live video and winners post that we shared on Facebook, on the final race on the last day of Middle School classes, June 3, 2016:

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