Curiosity Rover Sparks Curiosity" />
The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Curiosity Rover Sparks Curiosity

Curiosity Rover Sparks Curiosity

First Lego League students were inspired by the landing NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars

Fifty years ago the United States was shooting for the moon. Last month, the U.S. landed a rover on Mars. NASA celebrated the successful start of its 19th mission to Mars on Aug. 6 when its space exploration vehicle, the Curiosity Rover, landed.

The rover’s landing fueled the imaginations of Middle School First Lego League team members.

Illustration by Evi

Eighth grader Pravika, a four-year member of the First Lego League team said she wants to incorporate features of the Curiosity Rover into the robot her team is building for their upcoming qualifying tournament for North Texas Regionals in December.

“A big part [of preparing the robot] is making attachments that could move up and down and revolve around different tasks,” she said.

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Pravika explained that the attachments her team used have similar features to those of the Curiosity Rover; it is equipped with a multi-functional robotic arm.

While Pravika’s robot performs simple tasks such as picking up and moving objects, NASA’s contains a rock-slicing laser, a mobile organic chemistry lab and several other tools. Its main purpose is to find elements (such as nitrogen, oxygen and carbon) that can or once supported life.

Seventh grader Camille, also a member of the First Lego League team, said she hopes to learn about the Curiosity Rover in order to expand her own knowledge of robotics and outer space.

“It’s amazing that NASA could send a robot to Mars so we could learn about it,” she said.

By studying the launch of Curiosity, the First Lego League team members have learned that professional astronauts also face challenges when building robots. A series of delays and a $1 billion budget overage hampered the engineering process of the Curiosity Rover.

Although First Lego League doesn’t have major budget problems, they do have a time crunch and obstacles along the way. Most of Lego League’s engineering involves lengthy processes of trial and error.

“NASA probably had to rebuild their robot hundreds of times to be able to just send it up to Mars to take pictures and let it be able to do what they want it to do,” Camille said.

Richard Abbondanzio, Lead Science Chair and First Lego League Coach, said that he found Curiosity’s landing particularly interesting.

“It was completely different than other landings,” he said. “Here it was actually lowered down from the internal vehicle…it just dropped the rover and flew away.”

Abbondanzio has incorporated discussions of the rover into his curriculum this year. He asked his ninth grade students to make connections between the Curiosity Rover and the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle collider.

“We will talk about how the same laws of physics apply on these objects as they come down on the surface of Mars,” he said.

NASA’s Curiosity mission is expected to last two years. By then, NASA anticipates to have found elements that support life, according to an article by CNN.

For updates and videos on Curiosity, please go to: www.ustream.tv/nasajpl.

-Charlsea

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