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Mars Rover-Landing Challenge
Lab 1 - Detect Obstacles

Teacher Portal


Launch the Engage Section

ACTS is what the teacher will do and ASKS is how the teacher will facilitate.

  1. Hold up a marker for the class, and demonstrate each sense as you ask the class. Take the cap off to smell it, hold it to your ear to listen to it, look at it up close and far away, etc.  
  2. Guide students to the idea of using their five senses.
  3. Have students share their ideas about whether or not they think the robot can “sense” and why they feel that way.
  4. Hold up the Code Base - Eye Forward robot and show students the Eye Sensor on the front. You may want to pass the robot around so students can see the Eye Sensor for themselves.
  5. Have students share their ideas about what might be an obstacle on the surface of Mars. Make a list of “Obstacles” on the board, as students name things.
  6. Show students the Lab setup —the Field will be the Mars landing area, and the balled up paper will be an obstacle. (See the Lab 1 Image Slideshow for the suggested setup for this Lab.)
  1. If we didn’t know what this thing was, how could we figure it out? What do we see? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? Does it make a sound?
  2. What are we using to figure this out? What do see, hear, touch, taste, and smell all have in common?
  3. We use our senses to learn about the things around us. Do you think our Code Base can sense things too? Why or why not?
  4. Guess what, robots CAN sense things - using sensors. This Code Base build has an Eye Sensor. What do you think that Eye Sensor might do to help the robot learn about what is around it? If our robot was in a new place, like Mars, could the Eye Sensor help it there?
  5. Imagine a rover is trying to land on Mars. What would the Eye Sensor on the Code Base need to look for, or detect, to help the rover land safely? What obstacles might be in the way?
  6. How do you think we can code our Code Base to detect obstacles, so it can help the rover land safely on Mars?  Let’s find out together!

Getting the Students Ready to Build

Before we can start coding our Code Base to detect obstacles on the Mars landing area, we need to build the Code Base!

Facilitate the Build

  1. InstructInstruct students to join their group, and have them complete the Robotics Roles & Routines sheet. Use the Suggested Role Responsibilities slide in the Lab 1 Image Slideshow as a guide for students to complete this sheet.
  2. DistributeDistribute build instructions to each team. Journalists should gather the materials on the checklist.

    Image of the Code Base - Eye forward build
    Code Base - Eye Forward


  3. FacilitateFacilitate the building process.
    • Builders and Journalists should begin building based on their roles and responsibilities, like those shown in the Lab 1 Image Slideshow.
    • Circulate around the room to help students with building or reading instructions where needed. Ask questions about how the build is being constructed to keep all students engaged in the buildings process, and remind students to follow their Role Responsibilities if they need help taking turns.
  4. OfferOffer suggestions and note positive team building and problem solving strategies as groups build together.
A VEX GO character

Teacher Troubleshooting

Facilitation Strategies

  • Think about how your students will access VEXcode GO. Ensure that the computers or tablets that students will use have access to VEXcode GO. For more information about setting up VEXcode GO, see this Knowledge Base article.
  • Gather the materials each group needs before class. For this Lab, each group of two students will need a GO Kit, Build instructions, a computer or tablet to access VEXcode GO, a balled up piece of white or light-colored scrap paper to act as an obstacle on the landing area. Students will also need access to a Field for testing. 
  • The Eye Sensor uses infrared light to detect objects. Light-colored objects reflect infrared light and are detected more easily by the Eye Sensor. Dark-colored objects absorb infrared light and the Eye Sensor does not detect them as well. During the Unit, use white or light-colored paper for the obstacles to ensure that the Eye Sensor will be able to detect these objects.
  • Set up your Fields ahead of time, as shown in the image below, to serve as a testing area for the Code Base. Have these spread out around the classroom to allow students ample space to test their projects. Both Labs in this Unit will use the same Field setup, so you can leave your fields together from Lab 1 to Lab 2. The balled up paper is the obstacle to be detected, and the 'X' is the starting point for the Code Base in the Lab activities.

image of the Field Setup
Field Setup

  • Try a new starting position - If students detect the obstacle right away in Play Part 1, have them move the Code Base to a new starting location and try again, to experiment with object detection more. Does the Eye Sensor still detect the same obstacle? Does it detect something different? Why do they think that is?
  • Use the Get Ready...Get VEX...GO! PDF Book and Teacher’s Guide - If students are new to VEX GO, read the PDF book and use the prompts in the Teacher’s Guide to facilitate an introduction to building and using VEX GO before beginning the Lab activities. Students can join their groups and gather their VEX GO Kits, and follow along with the building activity within the book as you read.