littleBits Projects: Mars Rover

This is part of an on-going series of posts about littleBits projects. littleBits is available in the Adafruit store – Starter Kit, Extended Kit, Base Kit, Deluxe Kit, Synth Kit and the new Space Kit.

Learn how NASA scientists explore new worlds by building your own wireless Mars Rover.

Mars Rover littlebits

Based off NASA’s Opportunity, our rover gathers and displays light information from the environment as it drives. It is also controlled wirelessly with a household remote control!

In order to put the rover to work, you need to build a data collecting circuit and a wireless drive shaft.

littleBits Mars Rover Circuit 2

The drive shaft is made up of two parts:

  • remote trigger
  • DC motor


Mars Rover Drive Shaft

The data collection unit is made up of two parts:

  • light sensor
  • number module

Complete the circuit with two wires, the power module, and a 9V battery.

You can activate the drive shaft with any common remote control that uses infrared light to send signals. Power it up and you’re on your way to exploring the planet’s surface (a.k.a. the kitchen floor). As the rover travels, the number module display will rise or fall based on the amount of light hitting the sensor.

NASA engineers send instructions to the rovers via radio communications. Depending on where the planets are in their orbits, a radio signal traveling at the speed of light will arrive on Mars between just over 3 minutes or as long as 20 minutes. Your remote control signal should get to its destination much faster.

Create the body of the rover using your favorite building materials. You can replicate Opportunity or use one of NASA’s other rovers for inspiration. If you’d rather use household craft supplies, we have instructions for a simpler version of the rover on our website.

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

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