Synchronised STEM – Working together to solve the challenge of exploring mars.

Guest Author
28 May 2021
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Nova Rover: Building Mars rovers since 2017

At Nova, we believe in going beyond. Beyond the walls of the classroom, beyond the conventional assessments, to an exciting and collaborative environment.

The Nova Rover team was founded in Murrumbeena in March 2017 and 3 years later, it became the first team in the southern hemisphere to compete in the University Rover Challenge held annually in the US!

In fact, in April 2021 Nova Rover participated in the first Australian Rover Challenge (ARC) ever at University of Adelaide and came first! 

The amazing STEM team

This is a result of our strong collaboration within the group which includes: 

Arm Team: Responsible for constructing the robotic arm and programming it to perform various ‘out of the world’ tasks.

Chassis: Responsible to make sure the robot is designed in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

Operations: Responsible for managing social media, secure funding from external sources and hold outreach events to promote Nova team and STEM in genera.

Science: Responsible for making sure science related tasks of the rover; such as rock collection, sample collection, etc. are run smoothly.

Electrical – Responsible for integrating hardware and software components to create integrated circuits which are the heart of any robotic operation.

Software – Responsible for programming the rover tasks and manoeuvres.

From the inception, many challenges have come our way; the most recent one being the pandemic. For a team focussed on hands-on activities, this presented a real challenge but we converted this into an opportunity to explore the virtual land! For example, our operations team developed a fantastic virtual game, Code-A-Rover, using JavaScript and held virtual outreach activities with students from JMSS as well as Monash College.

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Meet the Nova Rover team

Nova played a significant role in the COSPAR-k event which is a Space STEM Event that runs annually in partnership with the NSW Department of Education. We received some really positive feedback and the students definitely seemed to have a great time! 

Education Outreach Program

In 2021, we hope to further our program and reach out to schools and universities to promote interest in STEM education.

Possible activities could include: 

  • Bringing the rover to schools and demonstrating manoeuvres and certain asks. This would give students a great opportunity to see STEM in action! 
  • Hosting a gaming event with students using our JavaScript developed game, Code-A-Rover. Students would get a glimpse of how coding and logic work. 
  • Identifying different rocks present on Mars. Our capable science team can delve into geology and share some really cool facts with practical demonstrations. 
  • Using BB-rover kits. This explores some rudimentary circuitry concepts by using a breadboard and various components. With this kit students can build a moving, flashing rover model.

We had the pleasure of visiting Oakleigh South Primary School – With 1000+ students, carried out rover and robotic arm demonstrations, played with wheels and 3D printed models and answered any questions about the rover.

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Up close to the Rover
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Rover testing outside the lab
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Code-a-rover game
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Rova Nova design testing

If you are interested in collaborating with Nova Rover or have an idea which you would like to discuss with us, shoot us an email at: [email protected]

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About the Author - Sanya Bhatia

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I’m a final year student at Monash University pursuing a Bachelor in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering. Throughout high school, I was extremely fascinated by physics; in particular, the concept of electricity seemed the most cryptic to me. How can we power homes with something we can’t even see? How can we communicate continents apart just through the air? I wanted to fundamentally understand how things around us work, from phones to smart devices to the appliances at our home. Electrical engineering seemed to be the course for me and I can say it really did satisfy all of my curiosities!

Astronomy has been another great passion of mine. Since primary school. I  have always loved learning about the formation of planets and the origin of our cosmos. This love grew and I took up two Astronomy electives in my engineering course. Monash Nova Rover was the perfect space for me to see both engineering and astronomy in action. Apart from expanding my knowledge bank., I also wanted to share my experience with other younger students and promote STEM. As a result, I became a part of the Outreach Team at Nova, and have been involved with creating lesson plans and being a part of outreach events with several schools!

Throughout my course, I must admit that I have witnessed a visibly less number of women-identifying students enrolled in STEM  courses, especially in my course of electrical engineering. It is important to acknowledge this and take steps to reduce the gap. I am confident that by engaging in more student clubs and exploring the multitude of opportunities offered by Monash, more and more people would enroll in STEM. My experience as an international female student at the Monash Nova club has been exceptionally amazing and I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone repeatedly. I hope to see more students, and especially women enroll in STEM courses in the coming years.
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