Rover Restraint


Rover Restraint (3rd – 8th)

This lesson gives students a hands-on introduction to engineering within the context of space exploration. They learn about NASA’s Mars rovers as examples of the challenges engineers face in balancing competing goals, while creating a lander for a mock rover to be tested in a plastic egg drop. 

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Lesson Overview

Students will:

  • Discuss challenges of landing a rover on Mars
  • Build landing gear to safely land an plastic egg “rover” on “Mars”
  • Discuss what worked vs. didn’t work about designs
  • Make comparisons to NASA’s methods, including the Curiosity landing video

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Solve the problem of landing a mock rover on “Mars” by designing and building a lander, including defining constraints (e.g., limited materials, budget, and time) and identifying criteria for success 
  • Evaluate different design solutions for this problem. 

This lesson is aligned with these Next Generation Science (NGS) Standards.

Standards Covered

Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI)

ETS1 Engineering Design – EST1.A Define Design Problems 

  • (3rd-5th) Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints).
  • (6th-8th) The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. 

Science & Engineering Practice (SEP) 

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

  • (3rd-5th) Apply scientific ideas to solve design problems. 
  • (6th-8th) Apply scientific ideas or principles to design, construct, and/or test a design of an object, tool, process or system.

Crosscutting Concept (CCC)

Structure and Function


  • Different materials have different substructures, which can sometimes be observed.
  • Substructures have shapes and parts that serve functions.


  • Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.
  • Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.
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