Free the MSL Robot
Design, build, and program a robot that can navigate to the crater and free the MSL robot so that all six of its wheels are back on the Martian surface.
- Read through the student material in the EV3 Classroom App.
- Collect some information about planetary rovers and how they’re used in space exploration.
- 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.
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 crater and free the MSL robot.
5. Elaborate (45 Min.)
- Have each team practice lining up their robot and sending it on the mission to free the MSL robot.
- Let them continue working on their robots until they’re ready for a judged attempt.
- Don’t forget to leave some time for cleanup.
- 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 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) robot is a radioisotope thermoelectric-powered rover that’s been exploring the Martian surface since 2012. With various drills, scoops, and other equipment, the robot can study the Martian climate and geology.
Use these questions to engage your students in a discussion about the role of planetary rovers in space exploration:
- What are planetary rovers?
- How can they help humans explore space?
The robot navigates to the crater and frees the MSL robot so that all six of its wheels are back on the Martian surface.
Here’s an example mission solution that completes this mission:
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.
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:
- Can you think of some ways the robot could navigate to the crater?
- Which type of motorized mechanism can be used to free the MSL robot?
Example Mission Solution
The example mission solution is comprised of the following solution extensions:
Execute the Mission
Place the example solution model in starting position “1” on the Challenge Mat and execute the mission. Make sure that the Collector Module is positioned as shown in the video.
If students run into the Rock Sample that’s in front of the crater, suggest that they complete the Return the Rock Samples mission first.
This program is unique to the example solution model described above. Due to variations in friction, battery level, lighting conditions, and the condition of the LEGO® components, it’s likely that you’ll have to make adjustments to the program. Before doing this, however, try making small adjustments to the robot’s starting position in the base area.
Simplify this lesson by:
- Removing the Rock Sample that’s in front of the crater
- Working side-by-side with your students to help them figure out how to free the MSL robot once their robot is on top of the crater
- Having your students complete the Grab and Release 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
- 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
Teacher Observation Checklist
Create a scale that matches your needs, for example:
- Partially accomplished
- Fully accomplished
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.
Award an achievement badge based on how well the team solved the challenge mission.
- Bronze: The team didn’t remove the robot from the crater but a clear attempt was made.
- Silver: The team moved the robot from its original position but it’s still touching the crater or some of its wheels still aren’t touching the Martian surface.
- Gold: The team rescued the robot from the crater and all six of its wheels are back on the Martian surface.
- Platinum: The team rescued the robot from the crater and all six of its wheels are back on the Martian surface. The team 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)
- Demonstrate their skills in solving a mission
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