Cisco Systems and National Science Center Team Up to Create Mars Rover Educational Program
January 23, 2004
By Jenny Carless, News@Cisco
School children gather closely around the Mars Rover master control station. Excitement is running high as they work together to program the rover's exploration and discovery tasks, plan and execute paths to specific geographic features on the red planet, measure performance parameters and analyze data.
This isn't a futuristic, twenty-second century scenario, it's a reality - today - for many lucky youngsters around the United States. And it has been made possible thanks to the exclusive sponsorship by Cisco Systems of the National Science Center's (NSC) "PROJECT: MARS ROVER," a high technology program incorporating a collection of robotic vehicles and associated educational programming.
The students' rover isn't really on Mars, it just seems like it. A 400-square-foot Martian landscape, accurately scaled to the robotic units, has been constructed as an interactive exhibit to portray how NASA gathers scientific data and relays the findings back for analysis. The exhibit opened recently, coinciding with the arrival of four probes on the Martian surface - two American, one European and one Russian.
Helping Young Minds Soar
Cisco sponsorship has helped enable NSC to create five functional Mars rovers for an educational experience that is truly out of this world. Students will be able to work with the rovers on site at NSC, as part of its Science-to-Go! Program (which travels around the nation, primarily reaching rural and underserved areas) or via a Web-based telemetry control system that will allow them to manage a rover directly from the classroom.
"We are excited about our newest program and the opportunity to work with Cisco Systems on this world-class educational effort," says former astronaut Joe F. Edwards, chairman and CEO of NSC. "PROJECT: MARS ROVER's goal is to educate our young students in robotics and the terrestrial and planetary sciences. Technological education is deeply imbedded at both NSC and Cisco. We're very proud to have them onboard with this effort."
NSC is an original collaboration between a non-profit organization (National Science Center, Inc.) and the U.S. Army. With locations at Fort Discovery in Augusta, Georgia and Arlington, Virginia, it aims to improve technical literacy and to encourage an interest in math and science careers.
For Cisco, the Mars Rover project is an obvious target for its philanthropic efforts. "Cisco has a great deal of interest in giving back, especially in education," explains Scott Spehar, Federal area vice president, Cisco Systems. "We were looking at ways to highlight the use of technology in education around space exploration. Cisco has been very involved in this field, and we want to see students involved in and excited about it, too."
"This is another example of how the Internet changes the way we work, live, and play," Spehar continues. "Joe Edwards and his team are putting that into action."
This particular corporate/government/non-profit collaboration is whetting the appetites of school-aged children across the United States for space exploration. It's also helping them learn practical math, robotics, computer programming, geology and climatology skills that will be critical to their education and career success right here on earth.
NSC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joe F. Edwards, a veteran of a Space Shuttle-Mir docking mission, will be on hand at Cisco Government Education Day, February 9, 2004, to discuss the success of the endeavor between Cisco and his organization. Government Education Day provides an opportunity for the press, analysts and others to hear government and industry leaders' views on the role of technology in the government sector and what is driving this area today.
Jenny Carless is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz, CA.
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