About 30 Nevada K-12 students, their science teachers, and their team coaches have recently completed a two-day ROADS on Mars Challenge Professional Development (PD) Workshop, offered by Nova77 STEM Workshop (Nova77). This PD Workshop is sponsored by NASA-sponsored NESSP (Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline) program, the Nevada Space Grant Consortium (NVSGC), NV NASA EPSCoR, and UNLV Geoscience Department. Nova77 STEM Workshop, a nonprofit organization promoting STEM education through active-learning programs and activities, is hosting the ROADS on Mars Challenge as a regional hub in Nevada.
This ROADS Challenge is an anticipation of the launch of Mars 2020 in the summer of 2020, and is an immersive opportunity for students in grades 3-12 to simulate a Mars rover mission of their own. The Challenge involves investigating geologic features and biological signatures, which gives students the opportunity to add their own observations and questions to our growing knowledge about Mars. Students will also be challenged to simulate the Mars 2020 mission by (1) creating a drone delivery system to orbit the Mars on a vinyl Mars mat, and to drop off a payload at the landing site; and (2) using Lego EV3 to build their own rover to traverse the vinyl Mars mat, and to complete several mission objectives including collecting and delivering samples. This Challenge is a re-creation of what the Mars 2020 Mission will be.
Kay Ratcliff from University of Washington led the PD training. UNLV geoscience professors, Dr. Libby Hausrath, a Mars 2020 mission participating scientist, and Dr. Ganqing Jiang, and Dr. Henry Sun from Desert Research Institute talked about Mars geology, astrobiology, and robotic exploration on Mars. Other participators include the NVSGC and NV NASA EPSCoR Director Dr. Lynn Fenstermaker, and Ben Nguyen, a local science teacher who won the Milken Educator Awards in 2019.