Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192

Mission To Mars: Grade Schoolers Tackle The Red Planet at UHSixth annual competition showcases students’ imagination and scientific knowledge

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January 17, 2008-Houston-
More than 60 Mars rover models created by elementary and middle school students will land on the University of Houston campus Saturday, Jan. 26 at the annual Mars Rover Model Celebration and Exhibition. Participating schools and community organizations come from Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Montgomery and Waller counties.

The annual event takes place noon to 6 p.m. and showcases rovers crafted from simple art supplies and found objects, as well as more complex solar-powered kits and radio-controlled car chassis. These young engineers and scientists of the future will showcase their model rovers in the Houston Room of the University Center. The event is open to the public.

The rover celebration is a UH educational program developed to spark students' interest in science and technology through the study of Mars. Students are given design criteria for a rover, requiring them to do basic research for designing and constructing a model of a vehicle to carry out a specific science mission on the planet's surface. A $25 limit on supplies for the model helps students learn about budgets and project management, while keeping the costs accessible for financially challenged schools.

"We have a shortage of American children entering college who intend to major in science or engineering," said Edgar Bering, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at UH. "The challenge for educators is convincing elementary school students that science and engineering are exciting, relevant and accessible career paths. Events like this offer hands-on projects, providing true-to-life results that encourage children to take learning beyond the textbook."

The event also will demonstrate the depth and breadth of UH space initiatives to inspire budding scientists for NASA's next stage of space exploration. For example, the Texas Learning and Computation Center (TLC2) will show a computer animation titled "The Birth of a Nebula" at its newly renovated, state-of-the-art 3D Visualization Theater. Other demonstrations and campus tour stops include the Center for Advanced Materials, TLC2, Center for Life Science Technology, Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Volunteers from the UH College of Education, UH student body, high-tech companies, NASA and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronauts (AIAA) will judge the event. Sponsors include TLC2, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Department of Physics, College of Education, Office of the Provost, AIAA and the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation and Statistics.

WHAT: Sixth Annual Mars Rover Model Celebration and Exhibition
WHEN: Noon-6 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 26
Noon-1 p.m. Entries arrive
1-2:30 p.m. Elementary school judging
2:40-4 p.m. Middle school judging
4-5 p.m. Talk on exploring space given by an aerospace industry insider
5 p.m. Awards ceremony
WHERE: University of Houston
University Center - Houston Room (http://www.uh.edu/maps/buildings/UC)
Off Calhoun Road, Entrance 1
WHO: Area elementary and middle school students (entrants)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Photos of last year's event are available on the Web at http://www.tlc2.uh.edu/Gallery/showgallery.php?cat=645.

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