The second part of a series detailing how the Mission to Mars IWB resources may be used in a themed set of lessons. Part 1 is here.
Find the IWB resource here.
While the use of this activity is described here in part 2 no order is intended to be suggested. The resources are linked by theme but they are not interdependent.
I don’t tend to use this resource in the emergency context that was detailed in the previous part of this series. It is actually very difficult. It is a puzzle that was published decades ago by H.E. Dudeney. He didn’t use robots exploring Mars but it is otherwise the same.
The “Mission to Mars” lessons that I run are not intended to just provide a theme to problem solving but allows expansion on more general ideas of science, space, technology etc. With a brief presentation on the history of robot probes to planets a discussion can be had on what the implications of the limitations of power and communications etc are. The limited efficiency of photovoltaic cells can be discussed when talking about the need for robots to be used efficiently. The delay in radio signals being received between earth and the robot can lead to discussions on how pre-programmed the robots need to be. Such subjects can also be linked in with work the children or doing or have done in science. It also provides background to the building of their LEGO 8547 Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Robot that is also part of the sequence of lessons.
With this real world justification of the task ahead the children are given the mission and its constraints (again shown on the Mission Briefing screen of the resource). The children can work at a computer and open up the resource to work on or it can be done just as well using squared paper, a pencil and eraser. Just make sure they draw the grid boundaries to the correct size.
It is unlikely that primary aged children will complete this mission in the defined number of steps very quickly so at certain time intervals the next step of the solution may be shown on the IWB. This is also a good puzzle to let the children (and their families) attempt at home so you may decide not to give too many steps away.
Ending this activity can be done like with the Mars Circuit activity or to avoid another “winner takes all” situation you may award points for 1st 2nd, 3rd etc as they show you the answer on paper with the 1st team finally closing the problem by demonstrating it at the IWB. To avoid making it too easy for the children to find the solution at home I will only provide the solution if you request it in the comments below. I will not send it for a couple of days to prevent cheating unless your email address is clearly a staff one. Note I cannot guarantee a quicker response.