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maker playground

robot explorers | 3rd grade+

Invent a robot that can explore the unknown. Learn about women who design, build, and operate robots that explore our world and beyond, and then design a robot that can investigate the questions you’re most curious about. Where will robotics take us next?


From deep space to the deep sea, robots help us expand our horizons and learn about hard-to-reach places. Scientists and engineers design and use robots to take pictures, map topography, and analyze samples in unexplored areas on earth and beyond. NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, currently in the news, is on Mars looking for signs of ancient microbial life, collecting rock and soil samples, and helping us prepare for future human exploration.

Women engineers like Diana Trujillo, Sydney Hamilton, and Dana Bolles use innovative technology to design, build, and operate complex components of spacecraft used to explore new horizons and search for life in space.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, Katy Croff Bell uses large deep sea robots to create maps of unexplored parts of the ocean floor. Allison Fundis relies on robotic assistance in her persistent search for Amelia Earhart. Explore their expeditions on the Nautilus here.

Hear from Diana Trujillo about her work on the Mars Curiosity and Mars 2020 missions.


Robots allow us to go places where humans can’t go (yet!). Where would you like to explore with the help of a robot?

Think of a new frontier you are curious about, and design a robot that can explore the unknown and answer your biggest questions.

  • Where will your robot go?
  • What features will your robot have to explore that location?
  • What questions will your robot help answer? How will it collect information to help you find those answers?

For more inspiration, watch ocean explorer Katy Croff Bell explain how robots help scientists learn about the ocean floor.

Or check out all the scientific instruments aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover that will help scientists better understand how humans might one day travel to Mars.


Once you know where your robot will go and what it will do when it gets there, it’s time to design! Create a model of your robot using any tools or materials you’d like. To create a digital 3D model, try using TinkerCAD. TinkerCAD is a free, online modeling program where you can combine shapes to make your own creations. To get started in TinkerCAD, check out these helpful how-to videos:

If you’d rather build something off-screen, you could create your model robot using cardboard and other recycled materials, clay, or building blocks like LEGOs.

However you choose to make your model, be sure to share your work with us by emailing a photo or file of your design to You might see your work on our website or Instagram page!