STEM Outreach Project

August 12th - STEM Project Presentation!
*Videos are at the end of this page!*

Today we presented our STEM Project presentation to Steve's NXT Robotics Camp in Palo Alto, California!  Unfortunately, Google and X-Prize were not able to send reps. to our presentation because they are in Los Angeles!

Our presentation was two hours long, from 2 P.M. -> 4 P.M.  Our target audience was a group of students ages 9 - 13.  Some of them had prior experience with Lego Mindstorms (either with the RCX or the NXT); some were taking this class for the first time!

We split the project into 3 sections, as follows:

- Part 1: What is Moonbots? - 45 minutes
In our introduction, we talked about forming a robotics team, the requirements to create a successful team, and the missions that our robot had to perform.  The kids were very excited to learn about the Moonbots competition!  We heard many kids express interest in joining Moonbots 3.0 next year!


About a quarter of the kids had prior experience with First Lego League; as a result, they understood the concepts of Moonbots a little quicker than first-timers!

The kids also wanted to learn about our robot, so we showed off our robot and its lifting capabilities!


Our robot's lifting capabilities!

- Part 2: Takeoff!  Rockets, Launching Simulations, Gyroscopes, NXT-Satellite (45 minutes)

In this section, our team discusses the different components of a rocket.  The kids were very surprised to learn that a rocket is mostly comprised of fuel tanks and the engines, and that the payload takes up such a small percentage of the rocket!

We also briefly introduced the concept of force vectors and how a rocket applies both a vertical and horizontal force.

Vector Diagram!

To engage the students in our presentation, Calvin and Bryant wrote up two Java simulations/games using a program called "Greenfoot" (  We used Bryant's rocket launch simulation here.

As you can see on the lower left-hand corner, there is a rocket.  This rocket represents the launchpad, where rockets are fired from.  The kids used the left/right arrow keys to turn the launchpad left and right, respectively.  Pressing "Space" would fire a rocket.  A mini rocket would fire out of the launchpad rocket, and little dots would appear that would trace the trajectory of the mini rocket.  The Moon appeared randomly on the screen (In the above picture, the Moon is near the lower right-hand corner).  The object of this simulation was to fire rockets and land on the Moon as many times as possible.  On the upper left-hand corner, there is a display panel that calculated a percentage of successful landings / rockets launched.  

The launching speed of the rocket could be increased by pressing the "S" button; the speed could be decreased by pressing the "A" button.

We then engaged the kids in a mini - competition: which two teams will have the most successful number of landings in 10 minutes? Our team awarded the top 2 teams Moonbots stickers!




Launchpad Simulation

Originally, we were planning for the kids to play the simulation for 10 minutes; however, the kids enjoyed this simulation so much that they played for 20 minutes!!

Our first and second place teams had successful landings 55% and 52% of the time.  They realized that by maximizing the initial velocity of the rocket, they were able to shoot the rocket much straighter!

Here is an image of our simulation:

After this, we asked the students about how the rocket traveled when the initial velocity was high compared to the rocket's trajectory when the initial velocity was low.  One student correctly answered that when the velocity was high, the rocket traveled in a straighter path, while when the velocity was low, the rocket arched more.

Next, our team demonstrated how gyroscopes helped balance the rocket while in transit.  We used a simple toy gyroscope to do this.

To close out Part 2, we discussed about actual satellites built from Lego Mindstorms!  Actually this satellite (featured on Make Magazine - Volume 24) was built as a joint project between NASA and students.  Nevertheless, the students were surprised that this satellite would be able to survive outer space conditions for up to 15 minutes without protection if it were launched!


- Part 3: Landing! - Greenfoot/Java Simulation, Phoenix Lander Animation,                Google Lunar X-Prize - 30 minutes

Calvin introduced this third section by showing a video clip of the Phoenix Mars Lander from 2008.  This animation (created by NASA) showed the entire Lander from launch to landing:

YouTube Video

To help the kids understand how a space probe lands, Calvin had written a second simulation in Java.  This time, there is a lander on the Moon.  You would use the left/right arrow keys to steer and the down arrow key to apply an upward thrust on the lander.  If you landed too hard, the lander would crash and explode!

If you managed to successfully land, a small lunar rover would deploy from the lander.  Helium - 3 and Water Ice elements were scattered on the Moon.  Using the "WASD" keys, you would drive the rover around to collect as many Helium - 3/Water Ice Elements and return back to the lander.  By pressing "Enter", the lander would take off again!




Our simulations can be found in the "Attachments" section.  

To close our presentation, we then talked about the Google Lunar X-Prize competition!  Hopefully, some of the students will be able to participate in this competition in the future!

It was a great experience to teach these 18 students about Moonbots, rockets, landing procedures, and the X-Prize competition!  Through the use of our Java simulations and asking questions, the students never remained bored; they were actively engaged throughout our entire presentation!  Seeing the kids' excitement with our robot and presentation really made all the work we put into this project worthwhile.

We filmed the entire presentation (2 hours of film!), but we cut down our video to a more bearable limit.

Thank you for reading about 2011-Lego Odyssey's Presentation!  Now back to robot building!

For more pictures, please refer to Steve's website at:

or view this Picasa slideshow:

STEM Project

STEM Project Presentation Documentation Video

Part 1:

Part 2:

P.S. For those of you who want a copy of our games or a copy of our PowerPoint, they can be found in the "Files" folder on our website, and they'll also be attached at the bottom of this page!

As of July 25th, 2011
- Four stage project/2 Hours Long

    What is Moonbots? - 30 Minutes
    -Explain to kids about the Moonbots project (goals/purpose of Moonbots)
    -Demonstrate our Moonbots rover
    -Answer any questions

    Takeoff! - 30 Minutes
    - Java Simulation using Greenfoot ( to simulate a rocket launching at different angles and with                         different amounts of thrust
    - Have kids use this simulation to determine what the optimum angle and thrust is to escape the Earth's gravity

    Landing - 30 Minutes
    - Java Simulation of a Space Probe landing on the Moon
    - Illustrating Newton's Third Law (For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction) for thrust
    - Demonstrate the challenges faced when trying to land a probe on the Moon/any planet

    What's Next? - 30 Minutes
    -Discuss what are the goals of lunar exploration (i.e. finding Helium 3/Water Ice)
    - Utilize the Greenfoot simulation and have the kids "mine" for Water Ice/Helium 3 Elements

Bryant Pong,
Aug 18, 2011, 10:04 PM
Bryant Pong,
Aug 15, 2011, 1:08 AM
Bryant Pong,
Aug 18, 2011, 10:01 PM