Travis has long had a fascination with Mars and the NASA rovers, so he was thrilled to discover this month’s crate from Kiwi Co. A chance to make his own rover! He wanted to know if it could really go to Mars, and although the answer was sadly no, there was lots of fun to be had.
We jumped right in to making the Mars Rover: Travis enjoyed helping with the axles, one featuring square holes and one round so kids can tell them apart.
The base of the rover is made from a wood frame, but Travis grew frustrated with the following step to thread through string that attaches the spring.
The tension of this spring is what makes the rover move forward, similar to a pull-back car toy. With a little grown-up assistance, the rover was complete.
He loved the second part of the project: Make the Flag. Using the wooden flagpole as a scratching tool, kids can scratch off the black surface of the flag to reveal rainbow paper underneath.
The sky’s the limit for what design to put on the flag, but Travis just loved revealing the color underneath and spent such careful time on this.
Once my artist declared his flag done, we threaded it onto the wooden flagpole. Insert the flagpole into the stand on the rover, and then i’s time to wind up and give it a test.
Alas, I can’t say any of us were wowed by the results. Yes, the rover moves forward, but neither very fast nor very far. Perhaps our strings or spring weren’t taut enough?
Still, we forged ahead to make the Crater Course. Layers of cardboard are piled up and put on a felt “Mars” surface. Send your rover over them and see if it can make it across the bumpy ground.
There were lots of suggested ways to vary the course: Space the craters further apart, arrange them in different ways, or pile them on top of each other.
After that, there was still more experimentation to try! We turned to the crate’s suggestion of rubbing cooking oil over the strings, to see if this resulted in a faster rover. Well, no, but the kids thought it was funny!
Then we set up a little course for the rover, with a piece of cardboard angled off two books. Could the rover make it up?
Alas, still no, even when we added other items (a paper towel, a fluffy towel) to give it more traction. Well, at least it could zoom down!
As a final experiment, it was time to make our own Mars sand. We filched some from the playground, then poured it into the Kiwi box.
Add a little bit of water, along with a steel-wool scrubber. Ideally we’ll see the sand take on a reddish hue in a few days as it turns rusty from the iron, just like the sand on the Red Planet!