University of Houston's Annual Mars Rover Project

The University of Houston Science Department is getting ready for its annual Mars Rover Model Building competition for elementary and middle school students. As Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports, the first order of business is getting local science teachers up to speed on the program.

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The World Space Congress sponsors this annual science project competition across the country to get young students interested in science and its practical uses. University of Houston professor and sponsor Edgar Bering says building a Mars Rover out of ordinary materials shows kids how easy and fun science can be.

"For many of these kids science is a sort of remote abstract thing that they study in school that isn't ever going to be relevant to their lives, and to get it home to them that, you know, all these neat gadgets that they see on television running around the surface of Mars or whatever, are built by people who used to be in third grade."

In this project, science teachers guide students in grades three through eight, as they design and build a mockup model of their vision of a Mars Rover. Bering says teachers use this as a tool to teach about the science of exploring the planets, and teaching the teachers what they need to know is the purpose of the workshop he's holding at the University of Houston this Saturday.

"We have a lot of materials we give the teachers. We have lesson plans. We give them a sample of a starter kit for the model. They're allowed starter kits that are inexpensive, ten dollars, and we go through how experienced teachers who've done this before do the program."

The students have six weeks to build their Mars Rover models, and the city-wide finals will be held at the University of Houston in January. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.