Kendra Gardner, Grace Warren, Isabella Taylana
Bruce Palmquist (Physics)
Since 1997, human perseverance has led to multiple explorations of the Martian surface. Now, through a combination of the free programs Octave and Worldwide Telescope, high school math and science students have the opportunity to explore Mars for themselves. This interactive, educational activity introduces Kepler’s Third Law of Planetary Motion and leads students through simplified versions of the real calculations that scientists use to transport rovers from Earth to Mars. Integrated within the activity are visual representations of Mars, along with some defining features and important locations on the surface of the Red Planet. There are four possible landing sites at the end of the activity, and each student will have the opportunity to calculate their way to the location that sparks their curiosity the most. In addition to using the Octave program, students will track information on a guided worksheet, which will also assist the student in their calculations. In the spirit of providing equal access to all students, this free and open source activity is intended to engage large groups of high school students from all backgrounds in the areas of astronomy, physics, and mathematics. Students who complete this activity will have met the NGSS standard, HS-ESS1-4: Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.
Keywords: Kepler’s Third Law, Mars, STEM Education