Robotic Engineering: Big Toys, Big Fun

Building Robots to Explore Mars!
The fourth seminar in the JPL series, "Robotics Engineering: Big Toys, Big Fun", was held on Wednesday, February 28, 2007, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Kobie Boykins, Mechanical Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Mr. Boykins gave the audience a "behind the scenes" look of what it was like to build the twin rovers that are still driving across the surface of Mars.

The Mars Exploration Rovers science objective is to search for past water activity on the planet.

Fifty-four (54) participants were present at the live Web Seminar in addition to the presenter, Brian Grigsby, the seminar's moderator from Arizona State University and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. One participant joined the seminar from Puerto Rico and another attended from Spain.

The Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, arrived at Mars in 2004. While at Mars, the robots have traveled over 4 miles (each), exploring the Red planet. Much work took place, including some failures, in the design and development of these machines. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide about A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet, grades 5-8.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
  • "Mars exploration is an interest of mine. I am also a NASA explorer school educator. I am integrating NASA missions and technology into the classroom."
  • "I am training to co-teach a robotics program. I am also currently teaching
    a space unit in my multidisciplinary 6th grade science class. This makes
    it all come alive! I will be using the NSTA website tomorrow to show
    pictures and share information."
  • "This was my first web seminar. Wonderful format. The presentation was
    excellent, giving me terrific material to awe kids and teachers about how the
    Rovers were built, tested and started work. Thank you very much!!"
  • "It will help to inspire students. Sometimes, it is difficult to connect real life situations and opportunities with the technical concepts we are teaching."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


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Underwritten by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory