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Mars Rover-Surface Operations
Lab 2 - Collect and Bury Mission

Teacher Portal

Launch the Engage Section

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

  1. Note students’ answers on the board by writing down what they identified, and how it changes. Some examples could include: animals changing from babies to adults, leaves changing, plants blooming, landforms changing over long periods of time, etc.
  2. Note students’ responses and connect them to the changes you’ve already written down on the board.
  3. Have students share their ideas, guiding them toward the idea that scientists are, in fact, looking for changes over time. Refer to the learning goals of the Mars 2020 mission, as shown in the Background Information, to help students connect to the actual Mars research that is occurring.
  4. Have students share their ideas, and guide them toward the idea of using microscopes and testing samples in a lab here on Earth.
  5. As students share their ideas, guide them to the fact that they need to keep the samples safe until another rover collects them to bring them back to scientists on Earth. Burying them means they can’t get lost due to wind or changes on the surface of Mars.

  6. Show students the GO Field set up for the Lab. Remind them that they can’t actually bury a sample, but help them think of other ways they could represent “burying” with code. Suggest waiting or glowing a color on the LED Bumper, if students need help envisioning this.

  1. What are some things that you know, have seen, or felt, that change over time?  For example, the leaves on the trees change from season to season. What are some other things and changes that you know of?
  2. Let’s think about these things that we’ve listed. If we studied these changes over time, what kinds of things could we learn about? For example, we can learn about how old a puppy will be when it becomes a full-grown dog, or how rivers or oceans have changed landforms over thousands of years.
  3. The scientists studying Mars are also looking for changes over time. What do you think they might be looking for, or looking to learn about? For example, one thing scientists are looking for are signs of water - to know if anything could have ever lived on Mars. Over time water can smooth rocks down, or leave other traces invisible to our own eyes. Scientists can code the rovers to look for rocks that might have been changed by water many many years ago.
  4. We know that they are collecting rock and soil samples on Mars, how do you think the scientists will study those samples?
  5. Scientists have to save those samples until they can be brought back to Earth, so they can study them. Guess what, to save them, they have to bury them on Mars! Why do you think they do that?
  6. How do you think we can code our Code Base rovers to add this step to collecting our samples?

Getting the Students Ready to Build

Let's see how we can collect and bury the first sample with our Code Base! (If students do not have a pre-built Code Base - LED Bumper Top from the previous Lab, allow an extra 10 minutes for students to build it prior to the Lab activities.)

Facilitate the Build

  1. InstructInstruct students that they are going to work together to help the teacher collect and "bury" the first sample, using a Code Base and VEXcode GO.

    Place the Field in a central location where all students are able to see it. View the animation below to see an example solution of how the Code Base could move to collect and bury the first sample.

    Video file
  2. DistributeDistribute one pre-built Code Base - LED Bumper Top, along with a tablet or computer with VEXcode GO open, for demonstration purposes. Students will collect their materials after the demonstration is complete.

    Code Base - LED Bumper Top
    Code Base - LED Bumper Top

  3. FacilitateFacilitate building a project together to collect and bury the sample, so that it can be returned to Earth in a future mission. Begin by identifying the four main actions needed - drive to the sample, collect it, drive back to base, and bury the sample. You can also have the Code Base rover signal that it is collecting and returning a sample by having the LED Bumper Sensor glow. Refer to the image below for an example of a possible solution.

    Engage Possible solution
    Engage Possible Solution

    • As you build the project, ask students questions about how the Code Base needs to move, and how that connects to the blocks you use. You can this series of questions, as a guide to help you facilitate building the first half of the project (driving to the sample, and collecting it) together. Repeat them to build the second half (returning to the base, and burying the sample). 
      • First, we need to drive to the sample. Who can show me, with their hands and words, how the Code Base needs to move to get to the sample? 
      • Which block do you think will be first in our project to make our Code Base move that way? 
      • How far does our Code Base rover need to travel? Who remembers how to change that parameter? 
      • What blocks should we use to have the LED Bumper glow, to signal that it is collecting the sample?
      • We will have to also have the glow turn off, how can we have our LED Bumper glow for a set amount of time, then turn the LED off?
      • Now our Code Base needs to turn. How do I add that into my project? Who remembers how to set the [Turn for] block to left or right? 
      • We're close to the sample! What is the last movement our Code Base needs to make to get there? 
      • Ok, so we drove to the sample, now we need to collect it. Who remembers how we did that in Lab 1? What blocks do I need to add to my project? Let's test it to make sure we're on the right track. 
    • Test your project as you are building it to model that practice for students. Then, continue to ask questions and build the second half of the project (returning to the base, and burying the sample), as you built the first, and test it to make sure it solves the challenge. 
  4. OfferOffer positive reinforcement for students who are actively engaging in the demonstration conversations, by taking turns to talk and listening to others. Remind students that they are going to work on building their own projects very soon - and that paying attention now will help them to be successful when they work with their groups during Play.
A VEX GO character

Teacher Troubleshooting

Facilitation Strategies

  • Allow time for building - If students do not have their Code Base - LED Bumper Top build from the previous Lab, allow time for building prior to beginning the Lab activities.
  • 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 VEX Library article.
  • Set up your Fields ahead of time, as shown in the image below, to serve as a testing area for the Code Base rovers. Mark the start and sample locations, as shown, using a dry erase marker, or classroom items. Have these spread out around the classroom to allow students ample space to test their projects. This is the same Field setup from Lab 1, with 4 of the Walls removed.
    Lab 2 Field Setup
    Lab 2 Field Setup


  • Peer to Peer support - If one group has successfully completed the Play Part 1 challenge in less time, assign students to help other groups that may be struggling. Encourage them to share how they solved the challenge, to help the other group to be successful as well.
  • Collect another sample - For students who finish Play Part 2 early and need an additional challenge, give them a dry erase marker, and have them mark an additional “sample” to collect. Then add the blocks to their project to collect and “bury” that sample as well.
  • 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 (Google / .docx / .pdf) 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.