UH Sponsors Red Planet Rover Exhibition

Seventh Annual Event Lets Students Design Space Missions for Fun, Learning

On the heels of a meteor seen flaming across the Texas sky recently, an event at the University of Houston will further spark awareness of space when a parade of Mars rovers is unveiled on campus.

Bringing more than 60 Mars rover models to UH Saturday, Feb. 28, elementary and middle school students from more than 10 school districts and 15 schools across southeast Texas will compete in the seventh annual Mars Rover Model Celebration. The event, which is free and open to the public, runs from noon to 6 p.m. in the Houston Room of the University Center.

The Mars Rover Celebration is a UH educational program developed to spark students' interest in science and technology through the study of Mars. Student teams are given design criteria for a rover, requiring them to do basic research for designing and constructing a model of a vehicle to carry out a specific science mission on the planet's surface. A $25 limit on supplies for the model helps students learn about budgets and project management, while keeping the costs accessible for financially challenged schools. Past rovers have been crafted from simple art supplies, found objects, solar-power kits and radio-controlled car chassis.

"Our objective is to demonstrate to kids that working scientists and engineers get to encounter the joy and wonder of learning new things about the universe every day of their lives," said Edgar Bering, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at UH, who has steered the event since its inception. "The Mars rover competition lets children put down their textbooks and work on a project with real-life results."

In addition to the contest, students will have a chance to tour various booths and departments around campus on a science- and engineering-oriented tour. The Texas Learning and Computation Center (TLC2) will present a 3-D drive on Mars in its visualization theater. The Center for Advanced Materials will have student drawings for mementos that have flown on space missions, as well as teacher drawings for an orbit-grown sample of the semiconductor compound gallium arsenide for classroom display. The campus observatory plans solar observations with commentary on space weather from a NASA scientist. Other exhibitors include the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM), the Cullen College of Engineering, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH and teachHOUSTON, a science and math teacher-preparation program.

The event is judged and staffed by volunteers from UH, NASA and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts (AIAA). Sponsors include TLC2, NSM, department of physics, College of Education, Office of the Provost, AIAA and the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics.

For more information, visit http://www.marsrover.org or the new Mars Rover Model Celebration Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=26245890364&ref=ts.

WHAT: Seventh Annual Mars Rover Model Celebration and Exhibition
WHEN: Noon-6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28
Noon-1 p.m. Entries arrive
1-2:30 p.m. Elementary school judging
2:40-4 p.m. Middle school judging
4-5 p.m. Presentations on space exploration, multimedia of the day’s event
5 p.m. Awards ceremony
WHERE: University of Houston, University Center – Houston Room
Off Calhoun Road, Entrance 1 (http://www.uh.edu/maps/buildings/UC)
WHO: Area elementary and middle school students (entrants)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Photos of last year's event are available at http://www.tlc2.uh.edu/Gallery/showgallery.php?cat=694.