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Mission to Mars: Building Rovers Out of Office Supplies

Common Core Standard

SC.5.E.5.2 "Recognize the major common characteristics of all planets and compare/contrast the properties of inner and outer planets."

Lesson Prerequisites

Before the Mission to Mars lesson, students should already be familiar with the following:

  • Mars and other planets in the solar system.
  • Essential facts about Mars like its position in the solar system, the gasses on Mars, and its terrain. 

Lesson Objective

The objective of the lesson is to teach students about Mars rovers. Mars rovers are vehicles designed to travel on the surface of Mars, which, unlike regular roads, average cars can't travel. Other objectives of the lesson include:

  • Students should be able to explain what a Mars rover is.
  • Students should be able to state why it's necessary to build Mars rovers to travel on Mars.
  • Students should mention the tools required to travel and explore Mars.
  • Students should explain the risks of a Mars exploration mission.
  • Students should be able to name the physical characteristics of Mars, like the climate, location, geographical features, surface, and atmosphere.
  • Students can list the advantages and disadvantages of planning a mission to Mars.
  • Students should offer ideas about how technological improvements can enhance future missions to Mars and the building of Mars rovers.


Some of the materials students will require to design the Mars Rovers include:

  • Papers and pencils
  • Craft materials like cardboard, small recycled boxes, wooden chopsticks, paperclips, and yarn.
  • Fastening materials like glue, rubber bands, tapes, and strings.

Teacher Note

You will get to choose how you want this project to be completed. The Mission to Mars rovers can be constructed as an individual assignment or amongst groups. Additionally, materials could be collected from school recycle bins, brought from home, etc. 

To take it a fun step further, if the first Mars astronaut is driving this rover, what conveniences could they enjoy? Examples include a stereo for music and a disco ball for an interstellar dance party.

The more creative you allow your students to be, the more enjoyment they will get from it. 

Main Project

Say: Imagine NASA has contracted you to build the newest Mars rover to send up as part of the next Mission to Mars. You need to build a model out of everyday office supplies to showcase your rover to the team at NASA. 

  1. Show your students images of Mars, the terrain, and previous rover models. Encourage a class discussion about what the rover needs to accomplish besides transportation. Examples include taking pictures and collecting samples. 
  2. If you are having your students break into groups, you can assign a group leader to be the NASA delegate who will present the rover. The other team members would be classified as engineers. 
  3. Note that is project may take your student a few days to complete. A potential timeline is as follows:
    1. Day 1: Designing the rover.
    2. Day 2: Gathering and making the rover.
    3. Day 3: Completing the rover.
    4. Day 4: Presenting the rover and explaining the concept behind the design to NASA.
  4. As your students create their rovers, be available to answer questions, squash team squabbles, aid in tasks such as cutting difficult cardboard, etc. 
  5. Encourage students to debate the wheel ideas most suitable for Mars' terrain. These could be tin lids, cardboard wheels, bottle tops, or other round-shaped objects.
  6. Remind your students to consider the rover's fuel source, durability, flexibility, and unique features when building. Additionally, ask the students to use decorative material like paper or coloring to enhance the appearance of their rover.

Presentation to NASA & Voting for the Winning Rover

Once the building is complete, each team of students can present their rover with the NASA delegate spearheading the presentation. 

After each team presents, allow your students to vote for the best rover. Once the votes are counted, the winning team is crowned with the design that NASA will use for the next Mission to Mars rover.

Assessment Questions

You may choose to forgo the presentation of rovers for a written exam or paper. Here are some questions you can ask students to ensure they understand the lesson and project:

  • What are Mars rovers, and why are they needed?
  • What physical characteristics necessitate the use of Mars rovers?
  • How does Mars compare to other planets?
  • What technological features can future generations use to improve Mars rovers?
  • What did you learn when building your Mars rover?
  • Which are the essential features of building a Mars rover?
  • Which parts did your group's rover lack, and how would that affect traveling on Mars?

Written by Steve Ndar
Education World Contributor
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