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Students at HMS Experience Mars Rover

Posted Date: 05/10/2019

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Is there life on Mars?  Students in Mr. Ryan Whinery’s 7th grade science classes just may be the group of students who visit Mars someday, especially after the Verizon Innovative Learning bus visit to Hempstead Middle School on Tuesday, May 7.

The 7th grade science classes at HMS had a great three day experience working with and learning about a Mars Rover.  According to Mr. Whinery, on the first day the students built rovers out of blocks and wheels. To test them, the students recorded distances as each rover rolled off a ramp in the classroom.  After testing them the students then competed within their class to see which team would go the furthest.

On day two, the students got to experience the Explorer Lab in the Verizon Innovative Learning bus.  Thanks to a grant from Verizon Wireless, Learning Undefeated, a non-profit organization, takes the bus on the road and brings an exciting classroom to the school parking lot.

While onboard the lab, students at HMS “traveled across the universe and landed on the surface of Mars in a multisensory, 360-degree video and special effects experience.”

As part of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum, developed to meet the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for engineering, the students played an interactive video game using special game pads while on board the bus.

During the 45 minute classroom experience “onboard the red planet,” students “used a custom-built video game to create their own Mars rover and pilot it across the surface of Mars” as they interacted with their classmates and a rover named Curiosity along the way.

According to Learning Undefeated, “During gameplay, which is based on the engineering design process, students learn to think like engineers by overcoming challenges and changing out equipment while making tradeoffs for cost, power, and battery life.”

After the fun experience in the explorer lab, Donnie Holstrom, Technical Coordinator, and Regan Thomas, Education Outreach Coordinator, with Learning Undefeated talked about the engineering skills the students had used as well as the vast job opportunities using engineering that are available in Texas and challenged them to be the generation to visit Mars.

The final day of the three day lesson plan was all about improvements that could be made to the rovers based on what they had learned in the Explorer Lab.  While in the classroom, the students made improvements, retested their rovers and competed one last time. Mr. Whinery summed it as, “Great three days for my 7th grade Science!”

A special thanks to the Verizon Foundation for funding the mobile Verizon Innovative Learning Explorer Lab that helps introduce students to the Engineering Design Process as well as diverse careers in engineering.

HMS Science

HMS-Science-6265 - Haley Herbert, Magnolia Menke, and Megan Grennon worked with their Mars rovers on special game pads to collect clues and evidence for the class during a recent virtual trip to Mars in the Verizon Innovative Learning Explorer Lab.

HMS Science

HMS-Science-6284 - HMS students in Mr. Whinery’s 7th grade science classes had the opportunity to try their engineering skills as part of the Explorer Lab in the Verizon Innovative Learning bus.  Principal Erika Douglas was excited see her students exploring new STEM opportunities.

HMS Science

HMS-Science-6292 - HMS Principal Erika Douglas joined the middle school students on their mission to collect clues and evidence on Mars as Education Outreach Coordinator Regan Thomas explained the custom built interactive video game.  K-12 Science Instructional Coach Stephanie Piper and 7th Grade Science Teacher Ryan Whinery were also on hand to work with the students on the exciting “out of the classroom” experience.

HMS Science

HMS-Science-6345 - HMS students worked together to collect clues and evidence on the virtual trip to Mars during their turn in the Verizon Innovative Learning Explorer Lab.  The classroom, located inside a bus in the parking lot, turned out to be a very exciting way to use their engineering skills.

HMS Science
HMS-Science-6360 - HMS students worked together on missions to collect clues and evidence with the rovers they had created during a virtual trip to Mars on the Verizon Innovative Learning Bus.  Technical Coordinator Donnie Holstrom worked with the students on their classroom mission while interactive boards on the bus allowed the students to monitor the success of their classroom mission.