Mars Rover

by littleBits

Published on April 28, 2014

Learn how NASA scientists are able to explore new worlds.
Learn how NASA scientists are able to explore new worlds! This Mars rover, based off NASA's Opportunity, gathers and displays light information from the environment as it drives. Control it wirelessly using the remote trigger and a household remote control!

NASA engineers send instructions to the rovers via radio communications. Depending on where the planets are in their orbits, a radio signal traveling at the speed of light will arrive on Mars between just over 3 minutes or as long as 20 minutes. Due to these time delays it is impossible to communicate with and control the rover in real time. To send instructions to rovers on Mars, NASA scientists must have a line-of-sight between Earth and Mars. Occasionally Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the sun, called conjunction. During this time, the sun can disrupt or block radio communication between the two planets.

There are two versions of this Mars Rover. The build instructions below correspond with the Mars Rover project in the booklet, which has a simpler build.

See pages 30-34 in the Space Kit booklet for more info.

How To Make It


Create the circuit shown in the image gallery.


To make the big wheel, cut the tops off of two plastic cups. Slide them together, rims facing out. Tape them together.


Make two cardboard circles for the inside of the big wheel. The circles need to be the same diameter as the inside of the big wheel. Make a cut the size of a craft stick in the center of the circles.


Place cardboard circles on both sides of the wheel and glue in place. Be sure that the stick goes through both slots.


Cut a whole in the base of a box large enough to fit your wheel.


Put the craft stick through the slots and add the motorMate to one end of it. You might need to cut the craft stick so that it fits in your box.


Make an axle holder for the craft stick on your wheel. To do this, cut a strip of cardboard and make a hole in one side. Tape your axel holder down next to the hole you made in your box. Place the DC motor on the other side of the hole.


Attach the wheel. The motorMate on your wheel connects to the D-shaft of the DC motor. The other end of the craft stick goes through the axle holder.


Cut a paper tube into six pieces to create wheels.


Cut six cardboard circles to fit inside the wheels. Using a skewer, poke holes in the center of each circle.


Place a cardboard circle in each paper tube and glue in place.


Make three holes in opposite sides of the box for axles.


Poke skewers through a hole in one side of the box and out through the hole on the opposite side. Glue wheels on the end of the skewers. Special Note: The two middle wheels are just glued in with short axles. These wheels won't spin.


Arrange your circuit in the box and tape everything down. Make sure nothing interferes with the spinning of the axle. Depending on the size of your box, you might need to build a small shelf for your modules to sit on.


Put a craft stick vertically through your cardboard shelf near the front.


Stick a small box on top of the craft stick and hot glue in place.


Tape the light sensor and number modules to the front of the small box.


Cut a small hole in your box so you can access the power switch.


Decorate your box.


Use a remote to drive around and gather data!

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