Students Have Until Dec. 20 to Enter Mars Rover Competition

In the 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds," listeners went into panic at the prospect of Martians invading Earth. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail when Houston-area grade schoolers descend upon the University of Houston for the 2009-2010 Mars Rover Celebration. The deadline for entries has been extended to Sunday, Dec. 20.

A looming deadline and the Red Planet's forbidding landscape aren't the only challenges students in grades three through eight must face. While these future scientists and engineers are expected to create operational vehicles that can carry out a specific scientific mission on the surface of Mars, they must restrict themselves to found objects and minimal art supplies costing no more than $25 - a budget that would make any NASA administrator quake.

The annual competition takes place from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, when the top three teams of students from 25 schools citywide will be given the chance to show off their models in the Houston Room of UH's University Center. The event is open to the public.

Students were supplied with design criteria and had to complete basic research on Mars to accurately determine feasible operational and structural features for their rovers. In a previous three-hour workshop held at UH, teachers were trained to guide their students in building the models during six-week classroom-learning and homework projects about Mars.

Visit or for the online entry form or contact Edgar Bering, UH professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering, at or 713-743-3543.