Initiate Launch

Design, build, and program a robot that can navigate to the launch site and press the launch button to launch the Rocket and activate the Mars Outpost.

90-120 min.
Grades 6-8

Lesson plan

1. Prepare

  • Read through the student material in the EV3 Classroom App.
  • Collect some information about rockets and how they’re launched into outer space.
  • If you feel it’s needed, plan a few lessons to go through the Robot Trainer unit in the app. This will help familiarize your students with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3.
  • To complete this lesson, your students will have to have built the eight Space Challenge models and set up the Challenge Mat.
  • If you don’t have double-block class time, plan to run this lesson over multiple sessions.

Part A

2. Engage (10 Min.)

  • Use the ideas in the Ignite a Discussion section below to engage your students in a discussion related to this mission.
  • Explain the objective, rules, and achievement badges for this mission.
  • Split your class into teams.

3. Explore (25 Min.)

  • Have your students brainstorm ideas for solving this mission.
  • Encourage them to create multiple prototypes, exploring both building and programming.
  • Allow the teams some time to work independently on building and testing their solutions.

4. Explain (10 Min.)

  • Facilitate a discussion about the key functionalities the robot must have in order to navigate to the launch site and press the launch button.

Part B

5. Elaborate (45 Min.)

  • Have each team practice lining up their robot and sending it on the mission to launch the Rocket to the Mars Outpost.
  • Let them continue working on their robots until they’re ready for a judged attempt.
  • Don’t forget to leave some time for cleanup.

6. Evaluate

  • Award achievement badges based on how well each team solved the mission.
  • Evaluate the creativity of each team’s solution and how well their team worked together.
  • You can use the assessment rubrics provided to simplify the process.

Ignite a Discussion

The distance between Earth and Mars varies greatly, and they’re closest to each other about every 2 years. They’re about 55 million km apart at their closest, which provides a convenient launch opportunity. A rocket going to Mars first has to reach an escape velocity of over 11 km/s to escape Earth’s gravity and then embark on the journey to Mars, which takes approximately 150 to 300 days.


Use these questions to engage your students in a discussion about how rockets are launched into outer space:

  • What are space rockets?
  • How are they launched?

Mission Goal
The robot navigates to the launch site and presses the launch button. The Rocket launches and when it reaches the Mars Outpost, it activates it.

Here’s an example mission solution that completes this mission:


Mission Rules
There are five rules that apply to all of the Space Challenge missions. Make sure your students know all of them before they start:

  • Your robot must always start the mission from the base area.
  • Your robot must leave the base area before carrying out the mission.
  • A “successful robot return” occurs when any part of the robot crosses over any part of the base area line.
  • You’re not allowed to touch your robot while it’s outside of the base area.
  • If you touch your robot while it’s completely outside of the base area and it’s holding an object, the object must be returned to its original position and you must begin the mission again.

Mission Achievement Badges
There are four levels of achievement badges. Explain that each team will be awarded an achievement badge based on how well they accomplish the mission. Refer to the Assessment Opportunities section below for a description of the achievement badges for this mission.

Building Tips

Open-Ended Solutions
This project is designed so that every team can have a unique solution. Use these questions to help teams brainstorm ideas for solving this mission:

  • What are some ways the robot could navigate to the launch site?
  • Which type of motorized mechanism can be used to press the launch button?

Example Mission Solution
The example mission solution is comprised of the following solution extensions:


Execute the Mission
Reset the Rocket, Launcher, and Mars Outpost*. Place the example solution model in starting position “2” on the Challenge Mat and execute the mission. Make sure that the *Launcher Module is positioned as shown in the video.


Mission Troubleshooting
Use the Color Sensor in Reflected Light Intensity Mode to detect the “Earth” on the Challenge Mat. For consistent results, start by calibrating the Color Sensor using the black and white lines that are just outside the base area.

Coding Tips

Solution Program

EV3 Classroom-Programs 3-8-solution en-us


Simplify this lesson by:

  • Working side-by-side with your students to help them figure out how to hit the Launcher with enough force to launch the Rocket once their robot is in position
  • Having your students complete the Colors and Lines lesson in the Robot Trainer unit before attempting this mission
  • Encouraging peer-to-peer learning and coaching

Take this lesson to the next level by:

  • Limiting the amount of time the students have to solve the mission
  • Challenging the students to use a Color Sensor to solve this mission
  • Adding design constraints by limiting the number of LEGO® elements available or assigning a “price” to each type of LEGO element and a maximum “cost” per robot

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 designed a robot that meets the requirements of the mission.
  • Students came up with creative solutions and considered multiple solutions.
  • Students worked together as a team to complete the mission.

Achievement Badges
Award an achievement badge based on how well the team solved the challenge mission.

  • Bronze: The team launched the Rocket as planned but no part of it reached Mars.
  • Silver: The team launched the Rocket and it reached Mars but they didn’t succeed in activating the outpost.
  • Gold: The team launched the Rocket and the outpost is activated.
  • Platinum: The team launched the Rocket and the outpost is activated. They also went beyond the mission requirements by adding features to their design.

Have each student choose the achievement badge that they feel best represents their performance.

  • Bronze: We did the best we could under difficult circumstances.
  • Silver: We had a few accidents along the way but we still battled on to the end of the mission.
  • Gold: We’ve accomplished the mission with excellent results.
  • Platinum: We’ve not only completed the mission but also added original and effective features to our design.

Language Arts Extension

To integrate language arts skills development, have your students:

  • Create a presentation or a video highlighting their robot’s features and performance
  • Create a presentation explaining some important features of their program

Note: This will make for a longer lesson.

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

  • Information Technology (Computer Programming)
  • Manufacturing and Engineering (Pre-Engineering)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (Engineering and Technology)

Teacher Support

Students will:

  • Demonstrate their skills in solving a mission

Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Common Core
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.

Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.

Student Material

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