ROADS on Mars mini-challenge winners — “Search for Signs of (Past) Life” (part 1)

We are very pleased to begin announcing some of the prize-winning teams from the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge mini-challenges!

Today we’re announcing a few of the prize-winning teams of the Search for Signs of (Past) Life mini-challenge. This goal of this challenge was:

To seek out Earth analogues of “signs of past life” in the team’s local environment. By searching for microbial life in their own community, team members will begin to gain experience in the detection of terrestrial life that cannot be easily seen by the human eye.

Team members were to first seek signs of methane using a handheld detector and then take a sample of the area to review under a microscope. They took video of their explorations and posted them to social media.

Congratulations, ROADS teams!!

* Not all hubs have finished selecting their top teams for the mini-challenges, and we’ll be announcing each mini-challenge on separate days. So the list below is a partial list of the top teams for this mini-challenge. Stay tuned as more winners are announced!

Alaska

Oosik’s — a Curiosity team from Kiita Learning Community in Barrow, AK.

Arizona

Aries — an Opportunity team from Tuba City Boarding School in Tuba City, AZ.

California

AMA Bros. — a Curiosity team from Hercules High School UAVs in Hercules, CA. See their prize-winning YouTube post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhlQRcZv2xE

DMV

  • FIRE AERO MS — an Opportunity team from FIRE – Future Innovative RIsing Engineers in Upper Marlboro, MD.
  • FIRE AERO HS — a Curiosity team from FIRE – Future Innovative Rising Engineers in Upper Marlboro, MD.

See their prize-winning Twitter posts here:

Montana

NewJersey

Millburn — a Curiosity team from Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ. See their prize-winning YouTube post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZSey0o0Br8

NewMexico

Cuh-yotes — a Curiosity team from Roswell High School MESA in Roswell, NM. See their prize-winning YouTube post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYDMFSG3Wkw

Oregon

Texas

South Belton Middle School — an Opportunity team from South Belton Middle School in Belton, TX. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/southbelton/videos/2935019906516733/

Washington

WSSB Explorers — a Sojourner team from Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, WA. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/Sch4Blind/videos/1024446564601617/

Virtual

BearsInSpace — a Curiosity team from Chittenango, NY. See their prize-winning Twitter post here: https://twitter.com/CHSBearsInSpace/status/1217541708826710016

ROADS on Mars / ROADS Freestyle — News for teams (May 13, 2020)

G’day, Mars enthusiasts!

How do you make the journey from doing robotics competitions in high school to working at Houston’s Mission Control?  Well, we just so happen to know someone who’s done exactly that!

“Meet an Expert” series

We’ve had some great “Meet an Expert” chats this spring, with another one coming up this week!  Hope you’ll be able to join us, because this is going to be exciting….

“Meet an Expert” — Ben Honey from Mission Control

What’s it like to work in Mission Control at Johnson Space Center?  Ben Honey is joining us on Zoom to tell us all about it!  “Ben has always loved space exploration, but his first love was astronomy and planetary science. He changed focus to engineering after joining the FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) club in high school.”

Details:

“Meet an Expert” — Series archives

If you’ve missed any of our previous chats, you can access them anytime on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1mqPwuC2YI&list=PL1p2GTGjWAoh7yFlgWCJS31Y4-OK9rd8T

Mars2020 progress

The NASA team at Kennedy Space Center continues to progress on preparing the Perseverance rover for its mission to the Red Planet.  Mars and the Earth are in alignment for space travel only every few years, so this July’s launch is an important window that can’t be missed.

You can follow along with the rover’s preparations on NASA’s Mars2020 blog:

Where’s Mars in the sky?

Can you see Mars in the sky right now?  Well, maybe if you’re an early bird (or a night owl who’s up very, very late).  Here’s an excerpt from Sky & Telescope’s “Sky at a Glance” says for May 8–16:

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn shine in the southeast to south before and during early dawn.  Jupiter, the brightest, is on the right. Before dawn begins, spot the Sagittarius Teapot to the right of it. Saturn glows pale yellow to Jupiter’s left. Mars is much farther to Saturn’s left or lower left. In a telescope Mars is no longer a tiny blob but a little gibbous disk. Mars is on its way to an excellent opposition in early October.

Opposition, in astronomy terms, is when Mars will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun.  We see the moon in an approximate opposition every month during full moon.  When the moon is in a more exact opposition with the Earth and sun, we have a lunar eclipse.

Mars, of course, is much too far away to be eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow, but its opposition in October will be an excellent opportunity to view the planet in the night sky.

ROADS on Mars Student Challenge update

The ROADS on Mars Student Challenge remains on hold for the time being.  But we are excited to (finally) be announcing some of the prize-winning mini-challenge teams!  The first wave of top teams for the Landscape Morphology mini-challenge are up on our website: https://nwessp.org/2020/05/roads-on-mars-mini-challenge-winners-landscape-morphology-part-1/  More mini-challenge top teams will be announced in the coming weeks!

ROADS Freestyle Challenge update

Freestyle teams, don’t forget that your submissions are due by Monday, May 18!  The submission form is live on our website: https://nwessp.org/programs/pages/challenges/current/mars-freestyle/submit/

Stay safe!  Keep your rovers at the ready.  And above all — have FUN.

ROADS on Mars mini-challenge winners — “Landscape Morphology” (part 1)

We are very pleased to begin announcing some of the prize-winning teams from the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge mini-challenges!

Today we’re announcing a few of the prize-winning teams of the Landscape Morphology mini-challenge. This goal of this challenge was:

Study how environments are modified by the action of water that may have formed the delta, and high velocity impacts that produce the catering in the vicinity of the Jerezo crater. This component, called Landscape Morphology, is particularly relevant today where regions are being impacted by record breaking storms each year.

Team members were to first theorize their own ideas about what might have created the features of Jezero crater and then test their theories by devising and carrying out an experiment. They took video of their experiments and posted them to social media.

Congratulations, ROADS teams!!

* Not all hubs have finished selecting their top teams for the mini-challenges, and we’ll be announcing each mini-challenge on separate days. So the list below is a partial list of the top teams for this mini-challenge. Stay tuned as more winners are announced!

Arizona

The Flaming Llamacorns — an Opportunity team from Thatcher Elementary School in Thatcher, AZ. See their prize-winning YouTube post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVYulQ5IxKE

California

Flight Team Five — an Opportunity team from Los Angeles Academy Middle School in Los Angeles, CA. See their prize-winning Instagram post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B6Tg7NdDfnm/

Dakotas

Kerbal Krew — a Curiosity team from Spearfish Robotics Club in Spearfish, SD. See their prize-winning YouTube post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGTpl5d-0MM

DMV

Montana

Nevada

New Jersey

Millburn — a Curiosity team from Millburn High School in Millburn, NJ. See their prize-winning YouTube post here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw3mt9D67iI

New Mexico

R4Robotics — a Curiosity team from R4Creating in Rio Rancho, NM. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/R4Creating/posts/2540227559588147

Oklahoma

Gobble Obble — an Opportunity team from Homeschool Group in Noble, OK. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/dagobble.obble.9/videos/120030312890881/

Oregon

Elbot 3000 — a Curiosity team from Stayton High School in Stayton, OR, OR. See their prize-winning Instagram post here: https://www.instagram.com/tv/B7chWxHp8uV/

Texas

Sunray Bobcats Ares X-plorer — an Opportunity team from Sunray Middle School in Sunray, TX. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/SBAX2020/posts/108818827324128

Utah

Patriot Robotics Operators (PROs) — a Curiosity team from Providence Hall High School in Herriman, UT. See their prize-winning Instagram post here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B6UH230Asgl/

Washington

DAB’EM — an Opportunity team from Roosevelt Elementary in Port Angeles, WA. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2403818296599463

Virtual

Rivergold Flight Crew — a Spirit team from Rivergold Elementary School in Coarsegold, CA. See their prize-winning Facebook post here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2403818296599463

For teams

Are you on a ROADS Freestyle Challenge team? This page has links to news and resources that may be helpful for you as you work on your Mission Objectives.

Newsletters

Subject matter experts

ROADS Freestyle — News for teams (May 1, 2020)

G’day, ROADS Freestyle teams!

First things first.  If you haven’t heard …

ROADS Freestyle — Submission date extended!

That’s right, you have a few more weeks to finish up your mission and send your submission materials to us.  Submissions are now due on Monday, May 18.  We’ll have a submissions portal on our website soon.

Also….

Virtual meeting for team support — Tuesday, May 5

Have questions about the ROADS Freestyle Challenge?  Chat with NESSP on Tuesday, May 5, to get answers.  And don’t forget that you can always submit questions to us via email: nwessp@uw.edu

Details:

  • Tuesday, May 5
  • 1 p.m. (Pacific Time) / 4 p.m. (Eastern Time)
  • Platform: Zoom

Instructions for joining us on Zoom:

You can join us two ways:

1) The meeting will be online using Zoom. To access both audio and video, join the meeting using this link: https://washington.zoom.us/j/5555431943

We recommend taking a few minutes prior to the meeting time to set up Zoom so that you don’t miss the first few minutes of the chat!

2)  To listen to the audio only, use either of these access phone numbers:

+1-669-900-6833. Meeting ID: 5555431943#; then press # again. (U.S.; San Jose.)

+1-646-876-9923. Meeting ID: 5555431943#; then press # again. (U.S.; New York.)

See you soon!

ROADS Freestyle Mission Objectives

ROADS Freestyle teams will need the Mission Objectives (MO) document to guide them as they complete the mission. The PDF covers required objectives for the Freestyle challenge and is available in a printable format and a format that’s easier to read digitally.

ROADS on Mars / ROADS Freestyle — News for teams (April 10, 2020)

“Meet an Expert” series

Earlier this week we had an amazing Zoom session with astronaut Fred Haise of the Apollo 13 crew.  And next week our “Meet an Expert” series will feature another planetary protection expert.

Fred Haise — Now up on YouTube

We’ve posted the video from our Zoom chat with Fred Haise to our YouTube channel.  If you’ve missed any of our past “Meet an Expert” sessions, you can also catch up on them there.

“Meet an Expert” — André Galli

For our next “Meet an Expert” chat, André Galli from the University of Bern in Switzerland will join us to delve more into planetary protection!  Students will have time for Q&A with André after his presentation.

Details:

ROADS Freestyle — Submission date extended!

We’ve extended the submission date for the ROADS Free Challenge.  Freestyle teams now have up to May 18 to get their submissions to us.

Haven’t signed up for the Freestyle challenge yet?  There’s also still plenty of time to register.  Details on the challenge are at: https://nwessp.org/mars-freestyle/

ROADS on Mars / ROADS Freestyle — News for teams (March 31, 2020)

ROADS Freestyle Challenge

If your Mars skills feel like they’re going dull with so many activities suspended right now, we have great news for you!  We’ve launched a new challenge that any team can do even while observing “safer-at-home” policies in place for coronavirus.  It’s called ROADS on Mars Freestyle Challenge and registration is now open!

About the Freestyle challenge

  • Roughly follows the objectives of the original ROADS on Mars challenge, but only uses items your team members in their homes.
  • Still a team activity (not a solo adventure!), so one of the challenges is to devise how your team will work together while also staying safe under “stay-at-home” policies.
  • Is a completely separate challenge from the original ROADS on Mars — which, yes, means your team’s progress on ROADS doesn’t really count toward Freestyle.  However….
  • Is open to all K–12 students in the U.S. whether or not they registered for the original ROADS.  So if you didn’t get to register for ROADS, now is your chance to sign up for a Mars mission!  (And if you did sign up for the original ROADS, this is a nice opportunity for your team to keep working together toward Mars.)

Prizes!

  • Top prize is a trip to a NASA center!  (Date to be determined, of course.)
  • “Best in Mission Objective” prize for most of the Mission Objectives.

Details

  • Register by:  Monday, April 13
  • Submit your team’s mission documentation by:  Monday, April 27
  • Freestyle website

In particular, please review the details — and download a copy of the Mission Objectives document — on the Freestyle Details page!  And if you have any questions, please email us: nwessp@uw.edu

Cool things to watch online

Our most recent “Meet an Expert” Zoom chat was last week — if you missed it, it’s now up on our website and YouTube.  We also have another one coming up next week, plus a recommendation for some lectures from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  We know that joining a webinar can be tough right now, not least because everyone else is clogging up the internet trying to do the same thing, but if you’re able to tune into any of these, we think you’ll find them useful.

Upcoming “Meet an Expert”

We are SO excited that our next expert chat will be with none other than Fred Haise, one of the Apollo 13 astronauts!  We really hope you’ll join us for this one!

Last week’s “Meet an Expert”

On March 26 we chatted with John Rummel, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute, about “planetary protection” — aka, keeping Earth (and other solar system bodies) safe from microbes.  If you missed it, you can view the archived video on our website.

Lecture webcasts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

JPL has some pretty cool talks coming up as part of their von Kármán Lecture Series, and they’ve taken them online.  Check these out if you can!

Submit 🗓

The submission period for the ROADS Freestyle Challenge has closed.

Congratulations! You’ve completed your ROADS Freestyle mission!! Now it’s time to submit your crew’s documentation. Once you have your Mission Development Log and your 4-minute video finalized, you can submit them either electronically online or physically via postal mail.

Deadline

Monday, May 18, 2020

FAQs

There are 2 submissions due — The Mission Development Log (MDL) and the video are each a separate submission.

MDL file format — The MDL can be in whatever document format works best for your team. For submission, you can choose to upload a file (a Word document, a PDF, &c.) OR to link to the MDL elsewhere (a Google Doc, a document you’ve uploaded to a Dropbox, &c.).

Video file format — The video can be in whatever video format works best for your team. NESSP should be able to translate most any video format, but if we do run into any issues with your file we will be in touch. For submission, you can choose to upload a file OR to link to the elsewhere (in your Google Drive or Dropbox, or if you’ve uploaded the video to social media such as Facebook or YouTube).

Video editing — You do not have to shoot the video in just one long take! We actually expect it will be easiest for teams to shoot many segments of video to be edited together for the final version. Use whatever video editing app you have available to you! We have no requirements on what editor you use. Your final video must accurately show your team’s efforts for the Mission Objectives, but should also show your team’s creativity and ingenuity.

Timeline

The ROADS Freestyle challenge has a timeline of just one month, because we designed it to be a hands-on STEM activity that can be done entirely at home during the spring of 2020 while so much of the U.S. is under safer-at-home directives to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Register
from to
Scheduled
Challenge date
ROADS Freestyle "Meet an Expert" #2 — Fred Haise (April 7, 2020)
Scheduled
Webinar
Submit
from to
Scheduled
Challenge date
SME talk: NASA Artemis Program Overview [ROADS News for teams (July 23, 2020)]
Scheduled
Newsletter Webinar

Prizes

The NESSP team in Seattle will score all entries for the “ROADS on Mars — Freestyle” challenge. Scoring will be based on the team’s impression of each entry’s originality, innovation, and ability to overcome unseen problems.

Top prize

The top prize will be a funded trip to a NASA center!

(Fine print: In order to receive clearance to visit a NASA center, students must be both age 11 or older at the time of the center visit and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.)

Prizes for “Best in Mission Objective”

There will be a prize for “Best in Mission Objective” for each MO 02-08.

Register 🗓

Registration for the ROADS Freestyle Challenge has closed.

Registration for the ROADS Freestyle Challenge is open to students in grades K–12 across the U.S. and territories.

When

  • Registration opens Thursday, March 26.
  • Register by Monday, May 11 (extended!).

Who

  • Participation is open to all students in grades K–12 across the U.S. and territories.
  • Registration for a team should be completed by an adult — usually a teacher or educator, a team member’s parent/guardian, or another adult community member serving as a mentor. This adult will be responsible for passing along all communication from NESSP during the Freestyle challenge, so make sure you have reliable ways of keeping in touch with all of the team’s members!

ROADS Freestyle vs. ROADS on Mars Student Challenge

The ROADS Freestyle Challenge is following in the path of the original ROADS on Mars Student Challenge, but do remember that they are two separate challenges! Think of the Freestyle challenge as a training simulation of the ROADS on Mars challenge — this means that anyone can sign up for the Freestyle challenge, nor are you obligated to do the Freestyle challenge just because you signed up for the ROADS on Mars challenge.

So remember:

  • If you are signed up for the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge, you are not automatically signed up for the Freestyle challenge. Don’t forget to register for Freestyle if you want to do it!
  • If you’re signed up for the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge, you are not obligated to participate in the Freestyle challenge. If you’re busy with other things this spring, you can sit this one out!
  • Registering for the Freestyle challenge does not sign you up for the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. (Registration for the ROADS on Mars challenge is closed.)

Details

The ROADS Freestyle Challenge is following in the path of the original ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. Think of the Freestyle challenge as a training simulation of the ROADS on Mars challenge.

Students will form teams that act as the crew of a ROADS Freestyle mission. Your crew has 8 Mission Objectives (MO) to accomplish as part of the Freestyle challenge. As your team’s crew members tackle each MO, you’ll be documenting your mission with both video and a Mission Development Log (MDL). When you’ve completed your mission, you’ll submit a final video and your MDL to the NESSP team for scoring. Full details are further down on this page.

The ROADS Freestyle challenge will be … well, challenging! If we’re all practicing excellent social distancing, then each crew member will be working on their tasks on their own at their homes. There’s no need to break quarantine to complete the mission — but that does mean you’ll have to work out how to overcome the communication and collaboration challenges of being a distributed team.

Preliminary steps

Form a team! — A good team size is around 5-6 people. Fewer or more than that is okay, but running it all by yourself would probably be hard! If you already have a team for the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge, we encourage you to keep that team for the Freestyle Challenge.

Register your team. — We strongly recommend that you have your adult register your team by Monday, May 11 (extended!). If you wait any later than that, you’ll likely find your team cutting it a bit close to make the submission deadline.

Plan your mission. — Read over the Mission Objectives document and plan out your mission. Think about what supplies you’ll need, what tasks need to be done, which team member will be responsible for each aspect of the mission, and so on. Since each team member will be working in their own home, also plan how you’ll keep in touch with each other to share updates on your tasks and to assess how the mission is going overall.

Documenting your mission — a.k.a., Submission & scoring

Mission Objectives 07 and 08 below are about documenting your mission — but don’t wait until you’ve done MOs 01 through 06 before thinking about your documentation! You should start thinking about, and working on, your Mission Development Log (MO 07) and your video report (MO 08) right from the beginning. These are the two submissions you will have to send to NESSP for scoring.

Tip! — Read MOs 07 and 08 first. Then go back and read all of the MOs in order, keeping in mind how you’ll document each step in the Mission Development Log and the video report.

The submission process will open in early April. Details will be sent to all registered teams and posted to the website.

References

Documents

ROADS Freestyle teams will need the Mission Objectives document to guide them as they complete the mission. We also recommend the manual for the original ROADS on Mars Student Challenge as a good resource for understanding some of the concepts of the Mars2020 mission.

Maps

The ROADS Freestyle challenge follows the same map used for the original ROADS on Mars Student Student Challenge. Freestyle teams will create their own maps to use at home, but will be recreating the features of the ROADS map (see MOs 01 and 02 below). Both the official map and the annotated map are included in the Mission Objectives document (above).

  • ROADS official Mars map — JPEG (31MB) | PDF (43MB)
  • ROADS official Mars map, with annotations — JPEG (5MB)

Mission Objectives (MO)

The ROADS Freestyle Challenge has a total of 8 MOs — and objectives 02-08 are each eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize!

MO-01: Design your map

Design your own obstacle course. Keep in mind the features of the Mars 2020 landing site used in the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. How you interpret and implement those features is entirely up to your team!

Notes:

  • Each team member will complete this MO on their own — please avoid in-person meetings with anyone outside of your household!

MO-02: Build your map

Each team member should replicate the map at their house. Everyone’s maps must have the same dimensions, but use whatever objects you have on hand to create the obstacle course designed in MO 01. A landing zone, river delta, mountains, crater, samples to be collected, and the delivery/caching point for the rock samples must be identifiable on each map.

Notes:

  • Each team member will complete this MO on their own — please avoid in-person meetings with anyone outside of your household!
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

MO-03: Build a communication dish

An interplanetary mission needs a communication apparatus to communicate with Earth. One crew member will design a communication dish (using 10 separate pieces of material that can be found at home), provide the design to all other crew members, and then create a video of constructing the dish and placing it on the map. All other members should then build a copy of the communication dish according to the team design and place it on their own map. Each crew member’s map must have a communication dish, and the dish must be visible in the videos that crew members record for MOs 04-05.

Notes:

  • Only one crew member will design the communication dish for this MO, so decide among your team who will do it. All other crew members must use the design to then build their own copy of the dish.
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

MO-04: Build a lander & drop it on Mars

One crew member will design, build, and land a lander on their Mars map. The lander should be built out of material you can find at home, but unlike the communication dish in MO 03, there is no requirement on number of pieces. To land on Mars, use whatever means you have available in the house to drop off the lander in the landing circle without directly touching the lander. Be creative, but direct placement on the lander by hand is not allowed! The crew member must record a video demonstrating the lander being dropped off in the landing zone on the map — the video does not need to include construction of the lander.

Notes:

  • Only one crew member needs to complete this MO, so decide among your team who will do it.
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

MO-05: Navigate Mars with a robotic rover

A crew member with a robotic or toy vehicle will use their “rover” to navigate the map should complete this MO. Use the rover to go through the obstacle course to collect the rock samples and deliver them to the cache sample zone on the map.

Notes:

  • Only one crew member needs to complete this MO, so decide among your team who will do it.
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

MO-06: Search for life

One crew member will perform a search for signs of life within their household. Look for bugs, things decomposing, etc. The member who accomplishes this objective should describe the search extensively in the MDL.

Notes:

  • Only one crew member needs to complete this MO, so decide among your team who will do it.
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

MO-07: Mission development log (MDL)

Tell us about your activities! What are you learning? What has been easy? What has been difficult? Did you find knowledge about these topics from a book, an online video, a teacher, a friend? Tell us everything! Each team member should contribute, but have one crew member compile the final document for submission to NESSP.

Notes:

  • All members can contribute to this MO, but have just one crew member compile the final version to be submitted to NESSP.
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

MO-08: Mission video report

One crew member should collect all the videos from the team and create a single, 4-minute video documenting the team’s mission. If you’re comfortable sharing the video on social media (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), that’s great! The submission form will ask you for the link to your social media post. If you’d rather not post your video publicly online, that’s totally fine, too — the submission form will also allow you to upload it directly to NESSP for scoring.

Notes:

  • All members can contribute to this MO, but have just one crew member compile the final version to be submitted to NESSP.
  • This MO is eligible for a “Best in Mission Objective” prize.

ROADS on Mars — Freestyle! (2020)

Even when a NASA crew isn’t on an active mission, everyone is still working and maintaining readiness in one way or another. Mission Control staff run simulations to practice their skills. Astronauts train in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab to prepare to work on the International Space Station.

So even though NESSP’s 2019–2020 ROADS on Mars Student Challenge is currently grounded, we’re still offering ways for everyone to keep their Mars skills sharp. We’re calling it “ROADS on Mars Freestyle,” and it’s open to anyone in the U.S. and territories in grades K–12! Just as the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge “follows in the path of” the Mars2020 mission, the Freestyle challenge will follow in the path of the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. What this means is that teams will replicate — at their homes! — many of the mission objectives from the original ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. Information is on the Details page.

The ROADS on Mars Student Challenge and this ROADS on Mars Freestyle Challenge are two separate challenges! You do not need to be on a team signed up for the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge in order to sign up for Freestyle. We encourage anyone who is not signed up for the ROADS on Mars challenge to sign up for Freestyle — just as we also welcome any team who is signed up for the ROADS on Mars challenge to also join us for Freestyle. Full details are on the Register page.

The top team of the Freestyle challenge will earn a funded trip to a NASA center! There will also be “Best in Mission Objective” prizes. Information is on the Prizes page.

Registration for the Freestyle challenge will open on Thursday, March 26. Freestyle challenge entries are due by Monday, May 18 (extended!). A full list of events and deadlines is on the Timeline page.

Read more about the Freestyle challenge

Watch the launch video

Questions?

Email: nwessp@uw.edu

ROADS on Mars — News for teams (March 24, 2020)

G’day, ROADS on Mars teams!

Meet an expert

We hope you can join us this Thursday, March 26, for another of our “Meet an Expert” chats! John Rummel, a senior scientist at the SETI Institute, will join us for an hour to talk on a subject that may sound very familiar right now — planetary protection. How do we keep Earth from getting contaminated by microbes from space? How do we protect other bodies in the solar system (Mars, for example!) from becoming contaminated by organisms from Earth? When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned from that first mission to the moon, they were quarantined for nearly a month in a special Airstream trailer. What does planetary protection look like in our modern era? John’s talk will cover the rationale for planetary protection considerations and its implementation during interplanetary journeys.

Details:

Important ROADS announcement coming Thursday!

The ROADS on Mars challenge may be indefinitely suspended — but you don’t have to step off the ROAD(s) just yet. NESSP has been brainstorming ideas on how we can continue working on our mission even while we’re grounded, and on Thursday we’ll have an exciting announcement on our new, ROADS-related project. Join us for our “Meet an Expert” chat to get all the details. Or, if you can’t join us on Zoom, check out our website Thursday afternoon (Pacific Time) for details to go live.

NESSP suspends in-person activities until further notice

As you are all aware, the coronavirus outbreak has been declared a pandemic and schools are being closed nationwide.

ROADS on Mars Student Challenge

We do not want students attempting to complete the challenge and running the risk of being infected. Therefore, to ensure everyone’s safety we are indefinitely suspending the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. Your efforts will not have been in vain as we WILL restart the program once an all clear is given to health authorities — we will keep the objectives unchanged and there will still be the funded trips to a NASA Center.

We also plan on having a few additional science matter expert talks, so please stay tuned! We will announce upcoming online activities — and the restart of the challenge — as details are available.

Educator summit

We are cancelling our educator summit, planned for June 2020 in Seattle, with the hope that we may be able to reschedule for later in the summer.

Summer 2020 camps

We are putting NESSP summer camps for 2020 on hold until further notice.

ROADS on Mars — News for teams (March 13, 2020)

Even though our challenge events are suspended indefinitely, that doesn’t mean the road has come to an end. We’ll be continuing with our virtual “Meet a NASA Expert” chats, so keep your Zoom app at the ready. We’ll also be sending more ROADS newsletters in the coming weeks so that we can all continue to collaborate on this mission even while we’re grounded.

We’ve very happy to announce that our next expert chat will happen on March 24. Join us to talk with John Rummel, senior scientist at the SETI Institute!

Details:

We’ll send out a reminder before the event. We hope you’ll join us!

NESSP transitions ROADS on Mars hub events to virtual

As our ROADS on Mars Student Challenge nears its spring hub events, we have watched as the COVID-19 outbreak moves across the United States. To make sure all our teams have the chance to complete the final ROADS challenge in a way that keeps everyone safe and healthy while also making sure everyone still has a shot at the top prize, NESSP is transitioning our hub final challenge events to virtual events.

NESSP Director Robert Winglee writes:

Thank you all for participating in the ROADS on Mars Student Challenge. I have watched in awe the postings that are on social media already. Great job everyone! I hope you continue the challenge — and the new challenge that will be announced later this year.

As you are maybe aware, coronavrius is in the U.S. Out of an abundance of caution and to do our part in limiting the spread of the virus, all challenge events for ROADS on Mars Student Challenge will now be virtual. Some of the hubs will just have teams run through the challenge live on streaming video, others will just have you submit your challenge online, and others may be a hybrid of these approaches. Please check our website regularly for updates: nwessp.org/mars

As for the grand prize, we still intend to make the launch of Mars2020 if the coronavirus threat diminishes before the launch. If it does not diminish, winning teams will still have the opportunity to visit a NASA Center at a later time when the coronavirus threat is diminished — so please keep working at the challenge!

All hubs will still hold a (virtual) final challenge event to select their top teams. We will post updated dates and details on how “virtual” will work for each hub as information is available.

Top teams will still receive a grand prize. We will send top teams to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of the Mars2020 / Perseverance rover this summer if travel is safe. If the launch is scrubbed, teams will have the opportunity to visit a NASA Center at a later time.

Exploring space comes with its share of unforeseen complications. Fifty years ago this spring, the crew of Apollo 13 experienced an incident with their craft that caused NASA to scrub that mission’s moon landing. But with all of NASA working together as a team, the three astronauts returned safely to Earth. NESSP is working closely with our challenge hubs to make sure ROADS teams can complete their mission.

We are still excited to see how each team tackles the ROADS challenge — we’re looking forward to exploring Mars with you!