STEM Satellites

STEM Discovery Center

Orlando Science Center, in partnership with the University of Central Florida, has been awarded a NASA grant to create themed content for chronically & critically ill children.


Over the five-year course of this project, we will engage children in STEM learning during their hospital stay and motivate them to consider related careers later in life. By using a series of three space-themed activity carts centered around the topics of Mars, Stars, and the Solar System, we will inspire these students to keep exploring and pursuing STEM-based learning. The activities will be carefully crafted to develop critical mathematics and science skills in children between the ages of 9 and 19 while using current NASA missions as the basis for inquiry.

With Support From

Mission: Mars hexagonal badge showing planet Mars and Orion space capsule.

Prototyping and research on the first space-themed activity cart, Mission: Mars, has concluded. A brief summary of activities follows:

  • Journey to the Launch Pad: Children design and build a model of the crawler-transporter with LEGO EV3 robotics kits in order to safely move a rocket from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the Launch Pad. The crawler-transporter moves across a custom-designed testing platform that detects speed and ground contact points in order to determine successful delivery.
  • Getting to Mars – The Launch: Children design a model rocket launcher with LEGO EV3 robotics with the goal of getting their rocket to land safely on the Red Planet. Children must gather data, analyze their results for improvement, and rebuild their design until a successful launch is achieved.
  • Planetary Orbits: Planning for a trip to Mars isn’t easy. Children use Ozobot Evo robots to model the orbits of Earth and Mars. They will need to use mathematical reasoning about orbit times and circumference of circles in order to succeed.
  • Surveying the Land – Mars Orbiter: Data is retrieved utilizing a handheld Mars Orbiter, providing children with authentic satellite imagery from Mars. They then need to unscramble the images on a tablet in a gamified manner in order to find out more about potential landing sites on Mars.
  • Surveying the Land – Mars Rover: Children design and construct their own Mars Rover with LEGO EV3 robotics kits. Utilizing the tools provided, the rovers explore the Martian landscape, correlating to the sites discovered in the prior activity. However, they must plan their rover path carefully. Conserving energy is important, so plotting the most efficient path is key!
Mission: Mars Ozobots lit up in the dark.
Mission: Mars Ozobots racing on the Mars Orbit activity mat.
Mission: Mars team member presenting activity options within a video presentation.
Mission: Mars team member demonstrating Surveying the Land activity within a video presentation.
Mission: Mars Surveying the Land activity mat with bin of Lego parts within a video presentation.
Mission: Mars Surveying the Land activity mat with built Lego rover.

In Partnership With

University of Central Florida
Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital
Nemours Childrens Health System

This program was developed by employees of Orlando Science Center and the University of Central Florida under Grant No. NNX16AM34G with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The United States Government has a royalty-free, nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, and prepare derivative works of this program, and to have or permit others to do so for United States Government purposes. All other rights are retained by the copyright owner. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.