After four long months of after school meetings, eight eager students from Prairie Middle School recently competed in Idaho Tech 2004 Mars Rover Challenge, which is part of the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, in conjunction with the Lego Company, on April 30th at the University of Idaho’s Kibbie Dome. Prairie Middle School fielded two teams at the competition, the “Space Pirates” (Conner Rieman, Mikey Karel, Garrett Workman and Devin Schmidt), and the “Bigger Midgets” (Jack George a.k.a. “Bigger”, Brach Heath, Silas Whitley and Kylee Simmons a.k.a. “Midgets”).
These Prairie students spent hours learning to work together as a team, and learning basic design concepts, mechanics and elementary physics of gear ratios and pneumatics. Then… finally… the Lego kits arrived! In late February, the Mars Rover Lego kits finally arrived, and the kids started creating their designs.
Under the direction of parent leader Laurie Workman and Prairie Middle School sponsor teacher Becky Higgins, the student teams designed, constructed, tested, redesigned, reconstructed and retested various Mars Rover Lego concepts. As part of the competition’s requirements, they kept journals of teams meetings, budgeting, parts selection, critical path decision making and design genesis. They also created billboard presentations and prepared a six-minute speech for their Preliminary competition.
The Idaho Tech 2004 Mars Rover Challenge involved four competitions: Incline Climbing, Blind Driving, Speed Trial, and Rock Collecting. Each competition required a different rover operator, mechanic and assistant from within the team so that all team members participated in competitive driving of the team’s rover design.
The Bigger Midgets started their morning off with the dreaded Incline Climbing Test. Jack George was in position with his teacher anxiously awaiting the start and…nothing! The team’s rover budged and fidgeted, but to no avail, it could not climb! The disappointed team took their Rover with their heads hung and walked away from the first competition beaten! Thank goodness for Blue Whitley…he decided to investigate the incident and found there was an intermittent electrical short in the wiring leads. The team talked to the Mars Rover Challenge officials, who gave the team new wire leads and allowed them to repeat the Incline test again!
This time, Jack George knelt at the incline course, white-knuckled and sweat rolling…he pushed the buttons of his controller and off it went….right up the 20° incline! The crowd cheered and the Midgets were smiling! The course official increased the incline to 30°…and up it went again! And again the incline was increased another 10°. The Rover headed up the incline and almost cleared the finish line but it ended up side-ways and backwards due to a center of gravity problem…it just couldn’t make the 40°. Good job Jack and the Midgets!
The second competition for the Bigger Midgets was the Speed Trial with Brach Heath behind the rover controls. The little Rover with its cat-tracks took off and completed the course in what was at that point a record-breaking time for the day; it was later beaten by other teams.
The third competition was the Blind Drive with Silas Whitley controlling the Rover and Kylee Simmons acting as his eyes. These two looked like they had practiced this course and knew it like the back of their hands. Again, the Midgets completed the course with ease, and again set a course record time that would also be overturned later in the event.
Last, Kylee Simmons took the rover controls and headed to the difficult and challenging Rock-Collecting rover test. She had an excellent start getting three rocks collected, but then ending up losing them from the rover collection device as the team’s rover attempted to climb an incline to get the remaining two rocks on the course. Kylee recovered the lost three rocks before time expired for a total of three of the course’s five rocks collected! Nice driving Kylee! And good work for the team on their rock collecting device. The Bigger Midgets gathered themselves and prepared for their final leg of day’s events…their speech and presentation. The three little midgets and the bigger one all did a great job delivering their speech for the six-minute time period, but lost several points on their presentation putting them out of the running for the top rookie team. They did walk away with the award for best team name!
The second Prairie Middle Scholl team, the “Space Pirates” started their competitions off with the toughest first, the Rock Collecting course. Driven by Conner Rieman, the Rover just wouldn’t cooperate, and no rocks were collected. The Space Pirates next challenge was the infamous Incline Test…Mikey Karel would try his rover control skills on this course. Unfortunately, the small tires that the Space Pirate team had chosen to use on their Mars rover just slipped and spun, and would not climb the incline. Disappointed, the Space Pirates headed for their third competition, the Blind Drive. Garrett Workman was behind the controls with Mikey acting as his eyes. These two worked very diligently to try to keep the Rover out of the corner and get it around the first corner of the track…to no avail! They also endured a minor break down, and were able to start the course again but ended up in the corner again…nice try guys! The last competition for the Space Pirates was the Speed Trial, with rover operator Devin Schmidt in charge. The group studied the track and finally decided the best route for their small-tired rover. With fingers crossed and holding their breath, Devin hit the controls and off he went! Finally, SUCCESS! The Space Pirate rover completed the speed track.
The Prairie Middle School students also enjoyed attending the University of Idaho’s Tech 2004 demonstrations taking place across campus of high tech designs and cutting edge technology such as computer keyboards projected by laser light onto any surface, and larger vehicle design concepts from university mechanical engineers. For these “Mars Rover” Prairie Middle School students, the design wave of the future is now. Great job, guys.
Pandas on the loose in Cottonwood
On April 27th and 28th 30 panda bears were spotted in front of the Kindergarten room. They were seen hiding amongst a forest of bamboo.
Actually what were spotted were the kindergarten students in their handmade panda masks, welcoming the 7th graders to their classroom. The 7th graders brought a potted bamboo plant to each kindergarten student to take home. The students greeted each other, exchanged gifts and then did small presentations of material learned over the past weeks.
The kindergarten students amazed and delighted the 7th graders with all the facts they had learned about Pandas and bamboo plants. The 7th graders in return told about what they had learned about the Yangtze River, deforestation of the bamboo region, Chinese festivals, endangered species and even gave a demonstrattion on Tai Chi. After the exchange of knowledge the students had a small Chinese feast with fried rice, egg rolls, tea and fortune cookies. Their teachers, Mrs. Tandy Savage and Mrs. Colleen Sonnen were part of LCSC's East Asian Symposium last spring. The Symposium was designed to educate teachers on China and Japan. After completing the course the teachers were required to design a unit plan that would integrate their extensive Asian knowledge into their classroom. Both the kindergarten and 7th grade had a wonderful experience learning about China and will continue to remember the day gifts of plants and knowledge were exchange.