Orange Coast College will be the Southern California hub for NASA's ROADS on Mars Student Challenge in the Spring of 2020. The Challenge is in anticipation of the launch of NASA's next rover launch in Summer 2020.
ROADS invites school-aged children in grades 3-12 to compete for a chance to win a trip to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the Mars 2020 launch. The Southern California regional competition will take place on April 25 and will involve teams of students participating in a Red Planet rover mission of their own, facing challenges in engineering, programming, analyses of biological signatures and geologic features. Participants also will be challenged to simulate a flight and landing on Mars.
"Mars 2020 mission is going to a specific crater on Mars where, we suspect, water has been flowing, and where there are signs of life," says Geology Professor and STEM Director Erik Bender. "For this challenge, kids are going to operate a drone, flying it around a globe of Mars before landing it on a specific target. They will be dropping off a radar antenna and a rover that they've built using robotics Legos. The rover will pick up rock samples, and afterward the drone will fly back in to pick it up and return to earth. It's a re-creation of what the Mars 2020 mission will be."
Bender will host several workshops at OCC early next year for participating teams aimed at showing them what judges are looking for. Registration is open to any child in grades 3-12, and all teams must have an adult mentor.
The deadline to sign up for the competition is Jan. 30 (extended from an original deadline of Dec. 15). For more information, visit NASA's Northwest Earth and Space Science Pipeline website at https://nwessp.org/mars/