Friday, February 26, 2016

Spring Outreach Events

We have a number of events slated for spring 2016. Here is a short list of events where chapter members and rover project staff will participate.

March 4: La Tercera Elementary - Salute to STEM (Sonoma County)
We still need a few more volunteers to help train children in operating the rover.  This will be one more in the series of STEM events at local Bay Area schools. We cover not only the Bay Area but surrounding communities as well.

April 1 - 3: Contact - Domain Hotel, Sunnyvale
    A Science and SciFi conference featuring Dr. Chris McKay, Larry Niven, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Andy Weir.  The chapter has registered us to have a presentation table. A good opportunity to present the program and interact with scientists and space enthusiasts who will be present at the conference. Perhaps we recruit a few more members as we did in past events.

April 8 - 10: Death Valley Marsfest 2016 (Celestial Centennial)
    Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi from NASA Ames is organizing this event and we will be setting up a table with our rover.  We are thinking of renting a vehicle (SUV or van) and carpooling there.  We will be camping out as well.  We are still deciding in the exact dates we will attend.

April 16: Mark West Elementary School Science Fair, Santa Rosa
    We were invited back to put up a display at this science fair again.  We have several chapter members already lined up for this event.

May 20 - 22: Maker Faire
    The chapter has submitted an application for our exhibit booth at the Maker Faire in San Mateo again this year.  We are asusming it will be accepted.  This is not the first time we have presence at the Maker Faire and as in years past we expect it to be an outreach success.  Volunteers will be needed to help at our exhibit in shifts.

Friday, June 14, 2013

University Rover Challenge 2013

Mike Stoltz, Mars Society's Director of Media & Public Relations posted a video of highlights from the University Rover Challenge 2013 held at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

The University Rover Challenge challenges teams of science and engineering students to build a rover for a theoretical Mars mission. Each rover must meet a weight requirement and be remotely controlled by the students.

From May 30 to June 1, teams from the United States, Canada, Poland, and India competed on several courses meant to test their rover’s designs and technology in a quest for bragging rights and a winner-takes-all $5,000 cash prize. The challenges included navigating through gates over varied terrain, dropping science packages at designated sites, and excavating material that could be analyzed for signs of life.

Some teams were funded by large corporations like Boeing and Microsoft while others, like the SRM University team from India, had a total budget of $4,000. This included the cost of building the rover and travel for the more than half dozen of its members. While other teams’ rovers had state-of-the-art suspension and power systems, SRM showed up with a batch of radio controlled car batteries and electrical tape.

But overcoming these challenges was the point to the competition. If rovers are going to assist humans in the exploration of Mars, communication system and structural reliability will be critical. That, and probably a healthy dose of electrical tape.

This robot competition happened the week after Judd, Eric, Forest, and Scott finished their closing Mars NorCal engineering crew rotation and prepared our research rover Sandstorm for transport back to the Bay Area.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Maker Faire 2012

The NorCal Mars Society chapter attended the 2012 Maker Faire in San Mateo and set up an exhibit booth for the rover project. The faire was bustling with activity this year and there were lots of people stopping by our booth to discuss our rovers and our chapter.

Our Phoenix rover, despite some technical difficulties due to WiFi interference, was operational and we gave visitors to our booth the opportunity to drive it around the nearby walkway. We had a nearly constant line of kids waiting for their chance to drive the rover.

We had a great time at the Maker Faire this year and look forward to coming back next year with another rover exhibit booth.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mars, Rovers, The NorCal Chapter

Members of the NorCal Chapter attended for the second time in a row the Maker Faire event in San Mateo, California. Its an event which always brings together a large number of technology and tinkering enthusiasts and seasoned professionals who share a passion for making things. We had a presence together with our NASA Ames colleagues. The rover display attracted many visitors, and initiated a number of conversations revolving around rover hardware and software and the exploration of Mars, future missions on it, and the prospects of one day landing a human mission and building a settlement. For now, we fill our time in exploring different scenarios, mission configurations and software revision on Earth based Mars analogs.

Our chapter member Jon Cox gives a brief overview of the chapter and our current work in the video shot at the Maker Faire.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meyerholz Elementary School Presentation

NorCal Mars Society members Jon Cox and Scott Davis presented the Sandstorm rover at Meyerholz Elementary School in San Jose on October 5th, 2011. Scott gave a presentation to an audience of third and fifth-grade students about the planet Mars and how astronauts may someday use robot rovers to assist them in exploring it. The students had been studying the solar system and were very excited about Mars. Sandstorm then drove out and greeted the students. The rover's camera view was projected on the screen for the students to see. Miss Peng's third-grade class was able to stay after the presentation and each student got a chance to operate the rover. Special thanks to Sylvia Leong for inviting us and helping organize the presentation.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Science Alliance Showcase

Members of the NorCal MS Chapter (Jon Cox, Scott Davis, Boris Debic) took part in the Science Alliance Showcase event at the Warm Springs elementary School in Freemont. It was a full day event with several in-class presentations and rover demonstrations finishing off with a "Why go to Mars?" (And why study engineering and science) lecture for students at the end of the day. After getting the rovers back with fresh data from the MDRS deployment in the Utah desert it was a fitting followup in our outreach activites program. Here's in Clyde Mann's own words:

"Our students had the opportunity to hear about and see the Norcal Mars Rover Project present throughout the day. The presentation was to over 800 students, cluminating in a big school assembly at the end of the day. I was fortunate to see parts of the final presentation. It was hot and sweaty in our multi-purpose room, yet Boris Debic singlehandedly kept the students illuminated and attentive by his fantastic sense of humor, and the idea that we are explorers and will always look for new frontiers. Celebrities, politicians (not statesmen), fortune 500 CEO’s, and Venture Capitalists don’t move me. What you brought to the students was truly inspiring. All I can say is that the next day, students with their eyes bulging out in excitement, could not stop talking about the presentation and loved the rovers."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zzyzx Spaceward Bound Trip (March 28th - April 2nd, 2010)

I've returned from a week-long trip to Zzyzx, CA with other members of the rover team and participants in the NASA Spaceward Bound project. Our group included a number of educators, scientists, and science students who worked on several different science projects during the week, such as science balloons, lava tube caving, and underwater microscopy. Our rover team provided one of the science projects with the participants operating the rovers out in different field environments each day. We operated on and around old lava flows, inside a lava tube, on a dry lake salt flat, and at night using a light attached to the rover's camera turret.

One of the highlights from the trip having the 5th grade students from Rob Palassou's Science Club from San Francisco operate one of the rovers at Zzyzx. They were broken up into teams of two students, where one team would hide an orange road cone within a bounded area, and another team would have ten minutes to search for it using the rover. The rover operating team were located in a nearby building and could only use the rover's camera to find the cone. The teams were cycled through so all the kids had a chance to hide and also search for the cone. Of the seven teams, two were successful at finding the cone target. All of the kids seemed to really enjoy the experience.

One the last day of the field operations, we set up a boom WIFI antenna on a hill at the Zzyzx science station and drove one of the rovers out on the dry lake salt flats to see how far it could get before the communication became too weak. The rover made it about half a mile away from base before it lost communication and we had to trudge out onto the muddy salt flats to retrieve it.

NASA Spaceward Bound Trip Info