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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Teachers prepare for Mars rover landing


The yearly Mars Rover Model Celebration and Exhibition hopes to get students in grades K through 12 excited in science and space travel. | Courtesy of Jesse Villarreal

For 12 years, UH has played host to the Mars Rover Model Celebration and Exhibition, a program that seeks to help local students excel in science and raise enthusiasm over space travel.

While the exhibition itself will not take place until later this year, UH is hosting two workshops to help teachers prepare their students for the exhibition and go over scientific curriculum that ties into the exhibition. The first workshop was held Sept. 21, and the second will be Saturday.

“The essence of the program is that kids pick a mission to Mars of their choice, which means they have to learn a great deal about Mars science before they make their choice,” said physics and computer engineering professor Edgar Bering, founder and chairman of the exhibition.

“So we have put together, with support from NASA and the College of Education, a six-week curriculum for the teachers to use.”

The purpose of last weekend’s workshop was to provide teachers with a primer to Mars science, covering the basics and focusing on information that the attendees may not have previously been aware of. The second workshop will focus on the six weeks of curriculum about the exhibition, including methods and strategies for teaching the material.

Bering said he originally proposed the idea of the exhibition to the Houston Independent School District in 2002, based on a smaller-scale project his children did in elementary school. He’s been closely involved with the exhibition every year since and said he’s been happy to see it grow.

“Last year, we had (about) 700 students from about 40 schools and 60 classrooms,” Bering said. “There are some schools where every student participates.”

The workshop is designed to help make the competing students more enthusiastic about their education.

“Anything we can do as an institution of higher learning to reach out to kids in grade school and get them more interested in learning — that’s one of our roles as a university,” said chemistry professor Simon Bott, who manages a tour for competing students during the exhibition. “(Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in this country is slowly slipping behind other countries, and especially here in Houston. We need people trained in it.”

Bering said he hopes the workshop encourages students to become more enthusiastic about their education.

“We’re trying to make it cool to be a geek in middle school,” Bering said.

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