ROVer Ranch gives students and educators an opportunity to learn and apply basic math and science concepts and to observe the behavior of a system they design.
The first set of simulated mission environments is centered on the International Space Station (ISS) and the mission goals are to navigate to various locations on the ISS and perform video reconnaissance. These missions and prototype robot are generally based on the Sprint AERCam, a small spherical free-flying camera platform used for outside inspection of spacecraft which has been put in an ISS VRML model.
The second set of simulated mission environments is based on the terrestrial exploration of Mars. The mission goals include photographic reconnaissance, taking spectrometer readings and other measurements of the environment. These missions are generally based on the Mars Pathfinder robot that explored Mars in 1997 and planned future missions to Mars.
The ROVer Ranch presents the learner with fundamental information about robotics, mission goals and facts about the orbital environment. Based on this information, the user builds and programs a virtual robot to accomplish its task.
Users design the robot by selecting parts for various functions such as propulsion, electric power, navigation and inspection. Once the robot is built, it is programmed and placed in a 3-D virtual environment. Options available in the simulation depend on the planning and design of the robot.
The idea is to involve users in a simplified design and programming task that exercises skills in mathematics and science, not as abstract fact, but as tools that can be explored interactively.
Since the robots are virtual, they are available to an large audience. The ROVer Ranch isn't intended to be a detailed simulation of space hardware, but rather emphasizes concepts related to robotics and the environment of the mission.