K-12 Schools

AARNet beams Mars Rover driver into regional classrooms

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Vandi Tompkins NASA

We’re always excited to see our network at work inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Today we connected the Mars Lab at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and Vandi Tompkins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California for a special videoconference event with 250 high school students in regional Australia.

Vandi shared her story, the successes and challenges she experienced along the way, the studies and work experiences that led her to her current work, and her experiences driving Curiosity. She also teleoperated the Mars Lab’s Mawson Rover, maneuvering it on a journey around the Mars Yard, a recreated Martian landscape located inside the Powerhouse Museum.

Students participating in the videoconference interacted with Vandi in real time and asked questions about her work, studies and driving a rover. It was an opportunity to connect with a scientist in the real world and gather tips for future Mars Lab missions.

The Mars Lab is a research collaboration between the University of New South Wales (The Australian Centre for Astrobiology), the University of Sydney (The Australian Centre for Field Robotics), and the Powerhouse Museum.

Programs are designed to engage high school students in the search for life on Mars and the technologies that enable that search. Mars Lab gives young people the opportunity to experience the thrill and challenge of exploration from their classroom by teleoperating a sophisticated robotic rover across the Mars Yard.

Dr Carol Oliver of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at the University of NSW says,

“ The Mars Lab project is a huge success, for remote access to education and research, and we would never have been able to do any or this without the AARNet infrastructure in place from the beginning.”

For more information about Mars Lab project and programs for schools, please visit:  www.nbnmarslab.com

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