Join the 2020 4-H STEM Challenge: Mars Base Camp

Carolyn Ng
Mars Base Camp

Inspire kids to imagine they are the first human explorers on Mars with the 2020 4-H STEM Challenge, Mars Base Camp. Developed by Google and Virginia Cooperative Extension, Mars Base Camp is a program that allows kids to explore Mars in exciting and engaging ways while learning important STEM concepts like mechanical engineering, physics, computer science, and space agriculture.

Mars Base Camp is perfect for any young person ranging in age from 8 to 14. The challenge includes four activities that can be done all at once or individually, making it highly adaptable for camp programs:

  • Landing Zone Surveyor is an unplugged activity where kids will attempt to land on Mars and discover features that are important for setting up a base camp.
  • Red Planet Odyssey is an unplugged activity where kids will use engineering skills to build a vehicle that can explore the surface of Mars.
  • Crop Curiosity is an unplugged activity where kids will learn about biology, environmental science, and agriculture to grow nutritionally efficient food on Mars.
  • Insight from Mars is an activity that can be done unplugged or online that teaches kids to code and share a discovery they made on Mars using CS First and Scratch.

Teachers and facilitators don’t need any prior experience with the STEM concepts taught in Mars Base Camp. Each activity is simple to facilitate and requires minimal preparation and technology to deliver. Mars Base Camp kits include all the materials required to complete the four activities and are available in two different sized kits to meet the unique needs of our time:

  • Educator-sized kits provide enough materials for 12 youth to participate in the 4-H STEM Challenge at the same time and can be used in communities and spaces where physical distancing and other CDC and locally recommended safety precautions can be observed. 
  • Family-sized kits will allow one to four youth to participate in the 4-H STEM Challenge at the same time, enabling families and households to participate from the comfort and safety of their own homes. 

4-H is pleased to offer 100 free kits to the American Camp Association network. To request your free kit, fill out the form here and indicate whether you would like to receive an Educator kit or a Family kit. 

Visit to learn more about the 4-H STEM Challenge, the Mars Base Camp activities, and upcoming training webinars. 

Carolyn Ng is the informal education lead for the NASA Space Science Education Consortium at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and played a leading role in supporting activities and resources for the August 21 solar eclipse. She has co-led the Sun-Earth Day program and the 2012 Transit of Venus outreach that brought space science content to many educators, museums, parks and the general public.

Mandi Lindner, who runs the annual 4-H STEM Challenge at National 4-H Council, can help anyone who has questions.