Distributed April 29, 2002
For Immediate Release

News Service Contact: Kate Bramson

Rhode Island Mars Day

Interactive workshops, games and quizzes to promote Mars exploration

A Mars outreach day at Brown University seeks to generate interest in the exploration of Mars. The May 4 event in Smith-Buonanno Hall is open to the public without charge.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A group of Brown graduate and undergraduate students working with NASA on its Mars Exploration Program is hosting a Mars outreach and education day to highlight the benefits of space exploration. The event is Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Smith-Buonanno Hall, near the corner of Brown and Cushing streets. The event is open to the public.

The Rhode Island Mars Project, a Brown student group, has taken its outreach programs on the road this year, with visits to about 10 Rhode Island schools so far, where members have talked with about 500 to 600 students. Organizers expect many of those students and their parents to attend the May 4 event.

“The themes that we’re emphasizing for this event are just the ideas behind Mars exploration. Why are we doing this? What do we get out of this? What bearing does exploring the planet Mars have on everyday life?” said Michael Attisha, a graduate student in physics who is the team leader of the Rhode Island Mars Project.

One of the planned workshops, to be offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., will allow students to plan all aspects of a Mars mission. They will take on the roles of engineer, scientist, mission control and astronaut. With play money, they will visit “stores” where they can buy the necessary materials for their mission. The engineer will have to buy the spaceship. The scientist will figure out what equipment and tools the group will need. The mission control person will have to make sure the group has enough money and will have to monitor the weight the group will carry into space – keeping in mind that every pound of material taken into space costs NASA $50,000. And the astronaut needs to figure out how much food and water the group will need.

The family-oriented event will have presentations for parents while children learn about how the surface of Mars was formed and how scientists learn about a planet from afar. Participants can also try out the two human gyroscopes – “something fun that’s vaguely linked to space,” Attisha said of the spinning apparatus that astronauts use in their training. The gyroscopes will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A Mars Game Show Quiz will begin at noon, with the final round at 4:30 p.m. Participants must register for the Mars Quiz prior to the noon session. Also at the event, the Rhode Island Mars Project will announce the winners of drawing and writing competitions held in the schools Brown students have visited this year.

The Rhode Island Mars Project developed when Attisha and other Brown students were chosen as one of four winning groups in a NASA competition. NASA had sought proposals on how to help its communications campaign to strengthen public support for the Mars Exploration Program. Attisha notes that benefits of space exploration include technology and medical advancements as well as the inspiration that has come with astronauts landing on the moon and participating in other exploration projects.

Rhode Island Mars Day Schedule of Events:

  • 10 a.m.: Opening, Breakfast
  • 10:30 a.m.: Workshops and presentation
  • Noon: First round of the Mars Game Show Quiz
  • 12:30 p.m.: Lunch
  • 1:30 p.m.: Presentation
  • 2:30 p.m.: Workshops
  • 4 p.m.: Break, snacks.
  • 4:30 p.m.: Mars Game Show Quiz Final
  • 5 p.m.: Competition Winners announced; Closing

For more information about the day’s events, contact Michael Attisha, team leader of the Rhode Island Mars Project, at (401) 273-7643 or mike@rimars.com. Also visit the Web site: www.rimars.com.