KB: “Why don’t you tell Suparna and I what your game was and how you thought it might be played in someplace like on the surface of Mars.”
TJ: “It had two basketball hoops just like a basketball, and then it had this metal ball that collects the dust…”
JM: We’re at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where engineers Kobie Boykins and Suparna Mukherjee are typically at work developing a new generation of the Mars rover. But on this day, they’re meeting with Kids’ Science Challenge winner Tyrone Hutchinson. Tyrone thought up a game called Magnetic Soil Ball. It’s a bit like basketball, and it takes advantage of some of the special features on Marslike metallic dust. Astronaut athletes on Mars would collect this dust by dribbling a magnetic ball. That dust releases into a catch bucket beneath the basket, and the first team to fill the bucket wins the game.
SM: “We were thinking about if you had a ball, something like a basketball, if you were planning on bouncing it on the surface of mars, or planning on rolling it?”
TJ: “You collect the dust and the soil by bouncing it”
TJ: “And then shoot it for the basket and it would come off.”
SM: “Cool. So these are the magnets that we put in there, and material sticks on it, and then in your game we would want to toss this through a hoop, right? [TJ indicates ‘yes’] And then the magnets would stop working”
KB: “And then at that point, we’d have to make something called an electro-magnet. This is a crude example of an electro-magnet. See if I undo this tape here? You’ll see there’s a whole bunch of coils of wire. And what you would do is you’d actually pass current, you’d put a battery on here or something like that, and that, the battery voltage with the resistance here would actually make a current. And we would make a whole bunch of these within the ball. This is one of the ways we could actually make your ball work.”
JM: Pulse of the Planet are made possible by the National Science Foundation. To learn more about the Kids’ Science Challenge, our free nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th-graders, check out kidsciencechallenge.com. I’m Jim Metzner.