Adventures in Robot-Building

The Robotix 2000 Classroom Competition encourages students in grades 4 through 8 to design and build a robot to operate on a simulated Martian planetscape. Students will use the Robotix System to create a mobile robot that will clear the northern lowlands of Mars in preparation for the construction of a new community. These robots will compete in a timed event to collect volcanic rock debris from sandy terrain and drop the debris into a canister. The robot to collect the greatest amount of debris in the shortest amount of time will win, and the winning classroom will receive a trip to Kennedy Space Center and a Robotix Classroom System, along with an award certificate signed by Apollo 13 Astronaut Fred W. Haise, Jr.

Following specific guidelines, students must design and construct the planetary surface on which their robots will compete. Students will videotape their robots collecting and depositing debris for exactly five minutes. A subsequent brief student presentation should describe the robot, what the robot encountered on the simulated Mars surface, and any other pertinent information they would like to relate. A panel of judges comprised of science instructors and Fred W. Haise, Jr. will review entries.

Those who pre-register for the competition by September 30, 2000 will also receive free lesson plans featuring activities that meet the National Science Education Standards. Entry forms are available at Students building robots may also be interested in the Mars Millennium Project, a national arts, science and technology initiative that challenges students to design a community for 100 humans on the planet Mars for the year 2030. More information on this project is available at Learning Curve, Chicago, IL, (800) 704-8697,

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.