Schedule Slips and Redesign
Due to circumstances beyond their control, both groups experienced a "slip" in their project schedules and the corresponding necessity to redesign portions of their "mission". This actually made the project more like real life, where nothing goes as planned and engineers may be reworking the mission up until the last minute. The fifth and sixth grade students at Montessori School of Corona were faced with the possibility that their rover would not get "launched". However, with a little bit of redesign and persistence, the rover would eventually find itself on an "alien" planet.
It is very important that the teacher takes the whole project in stride. Remember at all times that it is the process and the experience of doing that makes it educational. If the end product isn't turning out exactly as planned, it may be disguising something you could not have imagined. Sometimes the unexpected is what makes the effort memorable. In this case, the students and teachers experienced a little bit of what "real life" is. To quote Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers:
"Well, we scrubbed today. That happens a lot in the rocket business. A scrub is when you have to cancel a launch late in the countdown and try again another day. Scrubs happen for all kinds of reasons."
At the end of the project, a fifth grade girl wrote to her teacher:
"Some teachers might have given up when we went wrong. But you didn't. That's what I thank you for!"
Just like in the real life space business, you have to be patient and re-engineer the project when things aren't working. Adaptability and flexibility are key.
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