It’s National Astronomy Week in the UK (14–22 November), meaning the launch of an education project designed to bring the science and excitement of Martian exploration into the classroom could not be more timely.
The Roving with Rosalind project is for children aged 7–14 from disadvantaged and rural UK regions, who often have limited opportunities to take part in science or outreach activities. The initiative’s secondary purpose is to train classroom practitioners to deliver a more effective science education.
Participating schools can sign up to borrow one of five kits packed with hands-on science experiments, on top of taking part in a range of online activities aligned to the national science curriculum. Experiments draw from spectroscopy, physics, maths, engineering, programming and various other skills, promising a well-rounded learning experience. All activities come with an introductory video delivered by real space scientists, demonstrating the scale of talent working in the field.
Activities have been carefully curated to home in on a different aspect of the experiments that will be undertaken by the robotic Rosalind Franklin rover when it touches down on Mars in 2023. The rover is fundamental to the joint European/Russian ExoMars mission, due to launch in 2022, which aims to search for traces of life on the planet.
The kits contain maps of the Oxia Planum area of Mars, where it’s planned for the the Rosalind Franklin rover to land. Students can explore these maps using LEGO rovers which they design and build themselves, planning routes and points of interest where they’ll complete tasks to unlock ‘downloads’ of data from Mars to analyse.
Through an online event on 19 November, both teachers and students can find out more about how Roving with Rosalind mimics the real-life experience of a rover mission scientist.
Organised by Áine O’Brien and Sara Motaghian, two Scottish planetary science PhD students, the project is supported by £30,000 in funding from the UK Space Agency’s Aurora Science Education and Outreach scheme.
“The message of Roving with Rosalind is that science is an accessible career for anyone,” said Áine O’Brien. “The rover itself is named after Rosalind Franklin, who made huge contributions to the discovery of DNA but only recently started getting the credit she deserves.
“We’ve recorded videos with real space scientists from all walks of life to accompany the activities in our kits. We hope that their stories of how they ended up in their careers will be just as inspiring as the science experiments, and encourage kids to explore a future in science.”
To register for the Roving with Rosalind event, click here.