Make an Autonomous Robotic Explorer

Design, build, and program a robotic system that follows a path and communicates its position at least twice along the way.

120+ min.
Grades 9-12

Lesson plan


  • Read through this teacher material.
  • If you feel it is needed, plan a lesson using the "getting started" material in the EV3 Lab Software or EV3 Programming App. This will help familiarize your students with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3.

Engage (30 Min.)

  • Use the ideas in the Ignite a Discussion section below to engage your students in a discussion related to this project.
  • Explain the project.
  • Split your class into teams of two students.
  • Allow your students some time to brainstorm.

Explore (30 Min.)

  • Have your students create multiple prototypes.
  • Encourage them to explore both building and programming.
  • Have each pair of students build and test two solutions.

Explain (60 Min.)

  • Ask your students to test their solutions and to choose the best one.
  • Make sure they can create their own testing tables.
  • Allow some time for each team to finalize their project and to collect assets for documenting their work.

Elaborate (60 Min.)

  • Give your students some time to produce their final reports.
  • Facilitate a sharing session in which each team presents their results.


  • Give feedback on each student's performance.
  • You can use the assessment rubrics provided to simplify the process.

Ignite a Discussion

Rovers developed for any scientific mission have a common functionality. They are all able to collect some kind of information and send it back to a scientific base. Various communication systems have been invented over the years to suit different constraints and needs.


Encourage an active brainstorming process.

Ask your students to think about these questions:

  • What is a robotic explorer and where are they used?
  • What kind of motorized mechanism can be used to control a robot's movements?
  • How can a robot collect data along a path?
  • How can a robot communicate with a scientific base?

Encourage your students to document their initial ideas and explain why they picked the solution they will use for their first prototype. Ask them to describe how they will evaluate their ideas throughout the project. That way, when they are reviewing and revising, they will have specific information they can use to evaluate their solution and decide whether or not it was effective.


Language Arts Extension

Option 1
To incorporate language arts skills development, have your students:

  • Use their written work, sketches, and/or photos to summarize their design process and create a final report
  • Create a video demonstrating their design process starting with their initial ideas and ending with their completed project
  • Create a presentation about their program
  • Create a presentation that connects their project with real-world applications of similar systems and describes new inventions that could be made based on what they have created

Option 2
In this lesson, your students created an autonomous explorer that communicates its position.
To incorporate language arts skills development, have your students:

  • Think about an autonomous robot explorer in a remote location on Earth and evaluate the need for transmission of its positional data
  • Describe this scenario and compose an informative essay assessing the risks that could be attributed to transmitting this data set and examining transmission methods that could minimize these risks
  • Discuss the external factors that could increase these risks
  • Using figures and tables to support their ideas, devise possible methods to control these external influences
  • Draw a conclusion regarding the overall risk of the situation based on the evidence presented

Math Extension

In this lesson, your students created an autonomous explorer that communicates its position along its path. Autonomous systems may use machine learning algorithms to communicate their coordinates and location in terms of proximity to landmarks, estimated time of arrival at a goal, or the likelihood of completing a task based on their current position and battery state.
To incorporate math skills development, and explore a type of relationship building that machine learning algorithms use, have your students:

  • Review linear regression by collecting data and creating a regression function that relates the robot's positional data to its estimated time of arrival at its goal
  • Code a regression function into their programs to make their autonomous explorers communicate their position and estimated time of arrival

Building Tips

Give your students an opportunity to build some examples from the links below. Encourage them to explore how these systems work and to brainstorm how these systems could inspire a solution to the design brief.

Large Motor and wheel
Color Sensor 1
Color Sensor 2
Gyro Sensor
Touch Sensor
Ultrasonic Sensor

Coding Tips

Assessment Opportunities

Teacher Observation Checklist
Create a scale that matches your needs, for example:

  1. Partially accomplished
  2. Fully accomplished
  3. Overachieved

Use the following success criteria to evaluate your students' progress:

  • Students can identify the key elements of a problem.
  • Students are autonomous in developing a working and creative solution.
  • Students can clearly communicate their ideas.

Once your students have collected some performance data, give them time to reflect on their solutions. Help them by asking questions, like:

  • Is your solution meeting the Design Brief criteria?
  • Can your robot’s movement(s) be made more accurate?
  • What are some ways that others have solved this problem?

Ask your students to brainstorm and document two ways they could improve their solutions.

Peer Feedback
Encourage a peer review process in which each group is responsible for evaluating their own and others’ projects. This review process can help students develop skills in giving constructive feedback as well as sharpen their analysis skills and ability to use objective data to support an argument.

Students who enjoyed this lesson might be interested in exploring these career pathways:

  • Business and Finance (Entrepreneurship)
  • Manufacturing and Engineering (Pre-Engineering)

Teacher Support

Students will:

  • Use the design process to solve a real-world problem

Main Standards

HS-ETS1-2 Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
HS-ETS1-3. Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem-based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

3A-AP-13 Create prototypes that use algorithms to solve computational problems by leveraging prior student knowledge and personal interests.
3A-AP-16 Design and iteratively develop computational artifacts for practical intent, personal expression, or to address a societal issue by using events to initiate instructions.
3A-AP-17 Decompose problems into smaller components through systematic analysis, using constructs such as procedures, modules, and/or objects.
3A-AP-18 Create artifacts by using procedures within a program, combinations of data and procedures, or independent but interrelated programs.

4. Innovative Designer

a. know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
b. select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
c. develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
d. exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

5. Computational Thinker

a. formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions.
c. break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving. d. understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

6. Creative Communicator

a. choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

Extensions Standards

Math Extension
HSS-ID Interpreting Categorical & Quantitative Data
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4 Model with mathematics.

Language Arts Extension
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information

Student Material

Download, view or share the student worksheet, either as an online HTML page or a printable PDF