Mars has been a source of interest to humans since ancient times. Recently Space-x has been making plans; to send cargo in 2022 then a crew to start the journey 2024. Elon Musk dreams of a colony of 1000 people living and working on the Red Planet. During year 9 we will use a potential Mars colony as inspiration for our work.
Autumn Term: Project 1 - Transport (NC topics 1, 3, 4)
At Airbus in Stevenage the Mars Rover2 has been built and is currently being programmed. The surface of Mars is sandy, covered in rocks and mountainous. The team at Airbus has designed a vehicle that reacts to its environment using AI to take the best route.
Students will work in small teams to design a vehicle using Lego Mindstorms that will avoid obstacles, clamber over small objects, climb inclines and carry cargo.
Autumn Term: Project 2 - Vehicle Safety (NC topics 1, 3, 4)
Being on Mars, transport is especially hard to replace if damaged. It is therefore especially important to prevent the vehicles from crashing into each other, driving in unsafe areas and stopping at loading bay doors.
Students will use Microsoft Small Basic programming language to design a logical light system to keep vehicles safe. They will then be asked to replicate their solution with an Arduino and an electronics kit. Lastly, they will need to adapt their Lego vehicle to make use of the system.
Spring Term: Project 3 - Hydroponics (NC topics 1, 3, 4)
Water on Mars will be limited, and growing food will be difficult. Having a smart system that monitors moisture in the soil and keeps water levels for different types of plants at the correct level will be vital for survival.
Working in teams, students will design a system that monitors moisture levels and supplies water to individual plants when required. Each team will then develop a working prototype using Arduino.
Spring and Summer Term: Project 4 - Send and Receive Messages (NC topics 1, 2, 3, 4, 6)
Send a message from Earth to Mars takes between 4 and 21 minutes depending on the distance between the two planets. Most data are sent via radio wave that has been encoded before sending then decoded on arrival.
Each team will use Small Basic to change a message from a string to binary and back again. We will also look at binary maths, logic gates and how images/sound files are stored. The key concepts we cover can be reviewed on BBC Bitesize via the link below:
Summer Term: Project 5 - Space Suit Interface (NC topics 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Having an interface on a space suit that can be easily read and interpreted is vital for survival. Working individually, students will design an interface that could be attached to the sleeve of a space suit. They will need to think about the hardware and software required to run the system. When the design is complete students will develop a prototype using Small Basic. These concepts are covered by BBC Bitesize here in their Hardward and Software module.