As you may have read I do a makers club at my sons school I was thinking of doing a Mars lander project this spring.
We are looking at grades 4-8.
I'm trying to think up what the mission of the lander should be, what equipment we would need, and what software or training we would need to provide.
In my pointy little head I see this as three teams. A programming team, a building team, and a mission team.
The programmers and builders are petty plain. The mission team would have to design the course for the lander, and set mission goals.
I have access to an old Mindstorms yellow rcx.
I should also have access to some sparkfun boards for the Scratch programming language by then.
The kids will have been programming in Scratch for 3 months by then.
My two questions for the geek dads are,
How can we communicate between the rover and Mission control?
Do you think we would be able to build a telepresence rover from a mindstorm kit, and some PicoBoards.
This sounds like a cool project.
Depending on the time you have, and skill level you could definatly have a lot of fun with it.
Personally I'd build the on board control system using an Arduino. I've got a simple "rover" robot which has a couple of servo's for motor's, a range sensor (to stop it driving into stuff), and a bluetooth board to feed data back to a host system. I also added a buzzer so it could sound out messages in morse code. You can get wifi shields too, but bluetooth is simpler.
Depending on the programming level it might make sense to pre-program the robot to handle the sensors, and stream the data back via bt to computer, pull that into scratch, so they can record data, and plot some graphs. Then have a command and control language which lets "mission control" drive the robot. It will let them concentrate on the scientific and engineering issues without having to worry about how to interface with a particular sensor. They should still be able to decide what sensors they might need, and how to mount them on a chassis.
You can pick up a cheap "wireless spy cam" on ebay which sends low quality video - perfect for that grainy outer space look. Easiest way to handle it is to just feed it to a tv. Digitising and sending it would probably be too much compute power for a wireless rover.
I'm not sure your three teams will work - it barely works for adults: the mission team needs to figure out what needs to be done, which the hw team need to know before they start designing, then the software team can't write anyhing till they get the hw!
You could break it down onto a number of sensor teams - each responsible for choosing a sensor, mounting it, and then processing the data feed when it gets back to "mission control". If you feed the data stream from the 'lander" to four or five computers, with dual monitors, with a couple of video feeds you should be able to produce an awesome control center!
I've documented most the hardware I used in the Robot Rover Project. I'll post the software in a few days.