The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Student solutions stem from practical projects


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Sam Koster cheers as his Rover makes it all the way to the Martian rocks before crashing. Seward Elementary students made Mars Rovers and on Friday, with the whole school in attendance, they ran them through an obstacle course. The project was part of the school’s QUEST program that encourages involvement in science, technology, engineering and math.

Teams of enterprising young students at Seward Elementary School created original Mars Rovers over the past six weeks, powered by their own devices. On Friday, the entire school watched them speed along a 30-foot obstacle course in the gym as thrilled students cheered them on. The Curiosity-Mars Rover project was overseen by Augusta Lind, the school’s QUEST program instructor. The students had help from parent volunteers as they spent recess time and after-school hours building, modifying, and re-modifying their Rovers, space stations and launching devices.

The Rovers had to travel the length of the 30-foot course, over a ramp, over some bubbly-plastic, through two Martian rocks made from painted coffee cans, and finally through the finish line, a two or three-dimensional original space colony, raising or lowering its flag as they passed through. The students got bonus points for their craft and space colonies being artistically pleasing as judged by the volume of audience reaction, which was considerable.

The children were so thrilled when a Rover model actually made it through the course, they applauded, cheered and stomped uproariously, and jumped up and danced around in circles pumping their fists in the air. Neither did they hide their disappointment when a team’s project simply refused to budge, or toppled over and stopped still right at the start line.

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Lucy Hankins, Elsa O’Neil, Janelle Sagner, Malia Hewitt and Marisa Phasomsap, with their Rover. It took first place after completing the course.

Participants could use power sources such as small motors, batteries, mouse traps and so forth, but they were not allowed to use manufactured remote control devices, gases, CO2 cartridges, gases, explosives, liquids, animal or human power, or anything that could be harmful, or cause excessive clean up issues.

The goal of the project was to promote problem solving, math/science and teamwork skills, to provide students with creative thinking opportunities, and to generate a love of those subjects, according to QUEST instructor Augusta Lind, who oversaw and helped design the competition. Some teams whose Rover models failed to complete the course, made plans immediately afterward to continue working on their Rovers to make them even better.

The Mars Rover contest, along with the upcoming Lego-Robotics programs, and the computer-coding club are all great examples of “STEM,” or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math teaching being implemented here, said Seward High math teacher Stephanie Cronin, who will be teaching a new Introduction to Engineering class at the high school next year.


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