Seven AZ teams complete ROADS on Mars despite the challenges of social distancing
The Rover Observation and Drone Survey (ROADS) on Mars Student Challenge was planned as a big celebratory event on May 2nd hosting up to 48 robotics teams in grades 3-12 from around the state. Obviously, that didn’t happen thanks to COVID-19. Yet, NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning and University of Washington’s Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline re-structured the challenge and seven teams were able to pivot and adapt to the challenges of team robotics while social distancing. The all-virtual challenge ran during the month of September and included Challenge videos, Mission Patches, and Mission Development Logs documenting each teams journey to fly drones, program robots, and test soil for water, methane, and signs of life. This challenge simulated the science and technology of the Perseverance Rover that launched earlier this year and is currently on its way to Mars.
As of October 7th, seven teams had completed the challenge while only 20 challenges were submitted nationally. Of the 7 teams, The Ares Bobcats team #AZ002 of Cienega High School in Vail, Arizona stood out as the winner of the AZ student challenge based on a 192 point system that scored everything from Mission Patch creativity to collected robot sensor measurements and drone photos. The Robobs #AZ005 and Thatcher Middle School #AZ027 of Thatcher, Arizona took 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. The winners of the national challenge are yet to be announced, but based on the numbers, Arizona teams have a competitive advantage.
These student accomplishments were preceded by the Ares Bobcats also winning an award for Best Communication Dish design in the national ROADS Freestyle competition this summer, and the Lego Side of Killip Elementary School in Flagstaff, Arizona winning the Apollo’s Next Giant Leap Student Challenge (ANGLeS) in 2019. The grand prize for the ANGLeS challenge was a paid trip to Johnson’s Space Center in Houston, Texas where 3 Killip students got to visit NASA’s Mission Control with other winning teams nation-wide.