Mission to Mars: Launch Kids into STEM!

Congratulations! You have been selected to join our crew for a Mission to Mars! NASA has tasked us with collecting a soil sample from the red planet. This is an exciting but dangerous journey! Working as a team, we will launch a rocket, land on Mars, build a base, explore lava caves, design a rover, and conduct experiments. Along the way, we will need to use our science and engineering skills to solve problems. Are you ready?
— Astronaut Alex

I know I am ready! This summer, Astronaut Alex is guiding my students through an epic STEM adventure centered around a Mission to Mars! Alex guides student teams through each step of the engineering design process and connects to relevant STEM careers and current events. And my students love feeling part of the action! They jump at the chance to read the daily message from Alex, take pride in their own personal mission patch, and eagerly write design notes in their mission journal.

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Tell me more!

If you follow us, you know Vivify is a team of aerospace engineers with a passion for STEM education. Over the years of teaching STEM, we found that kids love stories. And what greater story than a thrilling adventure in space? The result is Launchpad, a 10 unit curriculum that launches students into the world of STEM!

Launchpad begins with Stage 1 team challenges that build teamwork and communication skills. Astronaut Alex then guides the class through Stage 2 engineering design activities, and each unit is a progressively more complex design challenge as students arrive at and explore Mars. Units are aligned to science and math standards along with a different career focus and STEM word of the day such as teamwork, resilience, and leadership.

Launchpad has an elementary (K-5) and middle school (6-8) version that has been piloted with over 1,200 students across 46 campuses through a partnership with Communities In Schools of San Antonio. Using feedback from schools, Vivify has continued to update Launchpad over the last 3 years, and we are excited to launch the curriculum to more schools and programs! We also hope to offer professional development to schools and nonprofits. Contact us at info@vivifystem.com to learn more!

I was nervous about STEM, but Launchpad made it easy! The storyline is so fun, and the students love the challenges. I had students coming back the next year still talking about the activities!
— Teacher at Adams Elementary

Launchpad Activities

From rockets to robotics, Launchpad covers a wide range of STEM topics and careers to engage all students. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that highlights more Launchpad activities used in our summer program! Below is an outline of each of the activities covered in the Launchpad grades K-5 version:

  1. Meet the Crew: Team Challenges

  2. Astronaut Training: Mars Trivia Game + Astronaut Boot Engineering Challenge

  3. Get to mars: Straw Rockets Engineering Challenge

  4. Land on Mars: Landing Device Engineering Challenge

  5. Build a Base: UV Science Experiment + Shelter Engineering Challenge

  6. Build a Rover: Conductivity Science Experiment + Bristlebot Engineering Challenge

  7. Explore Mars: Catapult Engineering Challenge

  8. Entertainment on Mars: Roller coaster Engineering Challenge

  9. Emergency: Zipline Engineering Challenge

  10. Mission Success: Coke Mentos Geyser + Atomic Slime

Launchpad is perfect for educators new to STEM or teachers looking for a cohesive curriculum that introduces students to STEM pathways and the design process. Each of the 10 units is intended for a 90 minute session that is ideal for an after-school program, summer camp, or spread across 2 class periods. Educators can also use a unit as a starting point for a deeper dive into a design challenge that includes research, prototype building, and presentations.

Teacher Guide & Student Mission Journal

Launchpad curriculum includes both teacher guides and student mission handouts. You can also access editable Google slides that include 151 companion slides with embedded videos, Astronaut Alex messages, STEM career connections, and extensions so all the work is done for you!

Mission to Mars: Colony Project

Launchpad curriculum is the introduction to our popular Mars Colony Project, an ultimate Stage 3 semester-long challenge. During our year-long STEM program, students first complete Launchpad activities in the fall semester to build STEM skills and a basic knowledge of the Mars environment. In the spring semester, students dive into the Mars Colony project to design a city on Mars to keep crew alive and happy using knowledge learned from Launchpad. Click the image to learn more.

Future Plans

Educators have so much fun using Launchpad in our programs, that we constantly get requests for new versions! Coming soon, we plan to have a moon and orbital space station versions to complement the Mission to Mars. These will each tie into a different space colony project including a lunar base and an orbital space station colony!

We hope your students enjoy their adventure in space!