A big welcome to V-STEM’s MARS Rovers

After a short journey from V-STEM’s head quarters your MARS Rover kit should have landed through your letter box, first learn about the Martian planet and what MARS Rovers do, once you become a Martian planet expert follow the online build instructions to create your own MARS Rover.

V-STEM support can be contacted through the help icon in the bottom right corner if you need any assistance or have any questions.

All about MARS

MARS, named for the Roman god of war, has long been an omen in the night sky. And in its own way, the planet’s rusty red surface tells a story of destruction. Billions of years ago, the fourth planet from the sun could have been mistaken for Earth’s smaller twin, with liquid water on its surface.

Now, the world is a cold, barren desert with few signs of liquid water. With a radius of 2,106 miles, Mars is the seventh largest planet in our solar system and about half the diameter of Earth.

MARS rotates on its axis every 24.6 Earth hours, defining the length of a Martian day, which is called a sol (short for “solar day”). Mars is on average about 50 percent farther from the sun than Earth is, with an average orbital distance of 142 million miles. This means that it takes Mars longer to complete a single orbit, stretching out its year and the lengths of its seasons. On Mars, a year lasts 669.6 sols, or 687 Earth days, and an individual season can last up to 194 sols, or just over 199 Earth days.

MARS is mostly made of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon. Martian breezes can gust up to 60 miles an hour, kicking up dust that fuels huge dust storms and massive fields of sand dunes.

Once upon a time, wind and water flowed across the red planet with lakes and rivers of liquid water coursed across the red planet’s surface. Not so today: Though water ice abounds under the Martian surface and in its polar ice caps, there are no large bodies of liquid water on the surface there today.

Since the 1960s, humans have robotically explored MARS more than any other planet beyond Earth. Currently, eight missions from the U.S., European Union, Russia, and India are actively orbiting MARS or roving across its surface. But getting safely to the red planet is no small feat. Of 45 missions sent to MARS 26 have had some component fail to leave Earth, fall silent en route, miss orbit around Mars, burn up in the atmosphere or crash on the surface.

What is a MARS Rover ?

A MARS rover is a motor vehicle that travels across the surface of the planet MARS upon arrival. Rovers have several advantages over stationary lander: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to weather winter months, and they can advance the knowledge of how to perform very remote robotic vehicle control.

What do they do ?

MARS Rovers missions since 1997 have been to search for and characterise a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity. In particular, samples sought will include those that have minerals deposited by water-related processes such as precipitation, evaporation and sedimentary. They determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks, and soils surrounding the landing sites.

Now it’s time to build your own MARS Rover

Now it’s time to wire up your MARS Rover

Now it’s time to Test your MARS Rover

Slide the Battery Pack (PB) top cover off the MARS Rover and Fit 4 AA Batteries in the Battery pack noting the correct orientation of the Batteries, once fitted replace the Battery Pack (PB) top cover back onto the MARS Rover.

The MARS Rover comes with an onboard program which you can use to Test your MARS Rover, switch on the MARS Rover by putting the Battery Pack (PB) switch to the “ON” position. A Red light should be visible on the AR1 module, after 3 seconds the wheels should start turning.

Now it’s time to program your MARS Rover

The Arduino which is the control system for your MARS Rover is powered from your PC/Laptop by the USB cable, it is important to make sure your MARS Rover Battery pack is switched off before plugging in the USB cable.

All the software you need is installed on the USB memory stick that came with you MARS Rover Kit, you do not need to install the Arduino development tool.

Instructions :

  • Plug your USB memory stick into your PC or Laptop and navigate to “V-STEM\Software Development Application”
  • Double Click on the “arduino” application, this will open up the Arduino Development environment.
  • Turn your MARS Rover upside down so that the wheels are not touching anything as they will start turning as the MARS Rover is running a test program.
  • With the battery pack switched off, connect your MARS Rover to your PC/Laptop with the USB cable provided in your kit.
  • Open the MARS Rover program example by selecting “File > Open” on the Arduino menu and navigate to “V-STEM\Example\MARS_Rover_example\” and open file “MARS_Rover_example”
  • On the Arduino menu goto “Tools > Port” and select the communication port which is available e.g “com3”
  • Scroll down the code until you get to “YOUR CODE STARTS HERE” section, this is the test program which is currently programmed in your MARS Rover.
  • To start programming you will need to understand the Robot commands, to start off to make the robot go forwards the command would be “forward(5);” , the number in brackets is the time duration for the robot travel time and in this case “(5)” is 5 seconds.
  • The other commands are as follows “reverse”, “left” and “right”, all the commands are in lower case text.
  • Each command must end with a semicolon “;”.
  • As an example if we wanted the MARS Rover to go forward for 10 seconds and then turn left for 1 second the program would look something like this.
  • Now have a go yourself, start by deleting the lines of code in the “YOUR CODE STARTS HERE” section and using the “forward();” and “left();” command create a program.
  • Save your program by selecting “File > Save As” from the Arduino menu, save your program as “my first program”
  • Now the fun part – uploading the program to your MARS Rover. Start by selecting “Sketch > Upload” from the Arduino menu, this will “verify” your code (checks for any errors) and “compile” (creates the downloadable code).
  • At this point if there are any errors shown at the bottom of your screen please contact us and we will talk you through it.
  • If there are no errors then your program would of uploaded to your MARS Rover and your wheels should be turning.
  • To test out your MARS Rover, disconnect the USB cable and switch on your Battery pack. Your program is now saved on the MARS Rover and every time you switch it on your program will run.
  • If you want to reconnect your MARS Rover back onto your PC/Laptop don’s forget to switch off your Battery Pack first.

Challenge Time – clear some space on your floor and create a program which make the MARS Rovers drive around a square, think about each corner and which direction the MARS Rover has to turn.

We will be creating lots of different challenges for you to complete over the next few weeks so keep out and keep coming back to check out the new challenges. Let us know how you got on with your first program.

We hope you enjoyed our MARS Rovers Kit

Don’t forget to send us some pictures of your MARS Rovers.

Instructions last updated – 09/02/2021

© 2021 V-STEM LTD. All rights reserved