International Art Contest: Mexico

Mars Society to Hold Int’l Student Mars Art Contest
Two Weeks Remaining until Submission Deadline (May 31)
The Mars Society is sponsoring a Student Mars Art (SMArt) Contest, inviting youth from around the world to depict the human future on the planet Mars. Young artists from grades 4 through 12 are invited to submit up to three works of art each, illustrating any part of the human future on the Red Planet, including the first landing, human field exploration, operations at an early Mars base, the building of the first Martian cities, terraforming the Red Planet and other related human settlement concepts.

The SMArt Contest will be divided into three categories: Upper Elementary (grades 4-6), Junior High (grades 7-9), and High School (Grades 10-12). Cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250, as well as trophies, will be given out to the first, second and third place winners of each section. There will also be certificates of honorable mention for those artists who don’t finish in the top three, but whose work is nevertheless judged to be particularly meritorious.

The winning works of art will be posted on the Mars Society web site and may also be published as part of a special book about Mars art. In addition, winners will be invited to come to the 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention at the University of California, Irvine September 7-10, 2017 to display and talk about their art.

Mars art will consist of still images, which may be composed by traditional methods, such as pencil, charcoal, watercolors or paint, or by computerized means. Works of art must be submitted via a special online form ( in either PDF or JPEG format with a 10 MB limit per image. The deadline for submissions is May 31, 2017, 5:00 pm MST. By submitting art to the contest, participating students grant the Mars Society non-exclusive rights to publish the images on its web site or in Kindle paper book form.

Speaking about the SMArt Contest, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “The imagination of youth looks to the future. By holding the SMArt Contest, we are inviting young people from all over the world to use art to make visible the things they can see with their minds that the rest of us have yet to see with our own eyes. Show us the future, kids. From imagination comes reality. If we can see it, we can make it.”

All questions about the Mars Society’s SMArt Contest can be submitted to:

Talking About Snake Bites: What can we learn from Mexico and Canada?

Reason snakes bites are currently on the rise in these US states

Teacher Training Notice:  The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Team will receive emergency training for dealing with snake bites.  “We have to be ready for all situations when working on our space geology teams.” Said team leader, Bob Barboza.   We are going to include this training in all of our Jr. medical space medicine programs.


Taking a trip to the South? Well watch out for snakes. Snake bites in Georgia are up 40 percent this year according to the Georgia Poison Control Center.

South Carolina is also reporting a 30 percent increase this year.

While North Carolina saw a notable spike in bites – receiving 71 calls in April 2017 compared to only 19 calls the year before according to WRAL.

A doctor with the Georgia center told WSB-TV that the first call to come in this year was the first week of January – breaking previous records.

They are blaming the increase on a short and mild winter.

According to a study released late 2016 – when it comes to snakebites in people 18 and under – Florida and Texas have the highest rates of snakebites – with Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia, not far behind.

If bit by a snake – The Mayo Clinic suggests calling 9-1-1- immediately – removing jewelry and or tight clothing in case you start to swell and positioning yourself so the bite is below or level of your heart.

Guide to Snakes Part 1: Know Thine Enemy

You and your buddies are out on a camping trip reconnecting with nature and your masculinity. You’re taking a day hike to see some ancient Indian hieroglyphics, when all of sudden you feel the acute pain of two razor sharp fangs entering your flesh. You’ve just been bitten by a snake. Do you know what to do?

Just the sight of a slithering snake can send a shiver down even the manliest spine. And with good reason-with just one nibble, and in only a few hours, these feetless, cold-blooded serpents can snuff out your life. While only 9-15 people in the United States die every year from snake bites, if you don’t know how to treat them correctly, you or your loved one could become part of those statistics. Knowing how to deal with snakes and snakebites is essential man knowledge.

The best way to “treat” a snakebite is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. So in Part 1 of the Art of Manliness’ Guide to Snakes, we’ll give you a dossier on all the bad boys you need to look out for.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss ways to avoid becoming some snake’s snack and how to treat a bite if you do get bitten.

Know Your Enemy

If you were a Boy Scout, you were probably taught an old mnemonic to help you identify venomous snakes:

Red and black, friend of Jack. Red and yellow, kill a fellow.

Or in other words, if a snake has adjacent red and black colors on its skin, it’s not venomous. If red and yellow are adjacent, that snake is venomous.
But as a man, you’re past simple maxims. You want to know how to identify and name a snake. You want to know the habits of your nemeses. So, here’s a description of the various poisonous snakes found in North America and around the world.

Coral Snake

Know Thine Enemy: Coral snakes are easy to spot by their distinctive coloring. They have alternating, red, yellow, and black bands. Did you get that? Red and yellow are touching each other, meaning this bad boy is poisonous. Be on the look out. There are counterfeit corals that have alternating red, black, and yellow bands. These aren’t poisonous.
Coral snakes are shorter than other venomous snakes. They average about 40 inches and have smaller mouths and fangs.

Their hideout: Corals are found in the southern and eastern United States, and in other places around the world. They can usually be found slithering in dry areas with lots of shrubs. They frequently spend their time underground or buried under leaf litter, and don’t pop out to say hello very often. You’ll see them most frequently after it rains or during breeding season. There are also some aquatic species that loiter in your favorite swimming hole.

How mean are they? They’re not aggressive or prone to biting, but if they do bite-watch out. Their venom takes longer to deliver, so when they bite, they hold on and won’t let go.


Rattlesnakes are easy to identify because, well, they have a rattle at the end of their tail. When threatened, the rattlesnake shakes its rattle as a warning to his would-be nemeses. Luckily for us, it’s a pretty damn loud warning; its peak frequency is equivalent to that of an ambulance siren. Did you ever wonder what a rattlesnake’s rattle was made of? Yeah? Me too. It’s basically composed of modified scales that slough off from the tail. Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin, a new segment is added. When the snake shakes its tail in the air, the segments rattle against each other. Contrary to popular belief you can’t tell a rattlesnake’s age from counting the number of rattle segments; while they do add more segments on a regular basis, they also lose them during travels. Word of warning: if the rattle gets soaked from wet weather, it will no longer emit its noisy warning. So tread lightly in those conditions.

Several varieties of rattlesnakes exist and their habitats range from Canada to South America. The diamondback rattlesnake, the mojave rattlesnake, the sidewinder rattlesnake, and the timber rattlesnake are three species common to the United States

The Diamondback Rattlesnake

Know Thine Enemy: The different species of rattlesnakes have varied colorings, but all can be identified by their skin’s telltale diamond pattern. Most diamondbacks are about 3.5-5.5 feet long, although the Eastern diamondbacks, the biggest of the bunch, have been found in the 7 ft range.

Their hideout: Diamondbacks are generally found along the southern border of the United States, from Florida to Baja California and into Mexico. Rattlesnakes like to sun themselves and come out in the early morning or afternoon to bask in the sun’s rays. You therefore often find them sunning themselves on rocky ledges. While not typically adept climbers, species like the eastern diamond back have been found 32 ft off the ground. Some are excellent swimmers as well; eastern diamondbacks slither for miles in-between islands in the Florida Keys.

How mean are they? Some diamondbacks will retreat if given a chance. But often they will stand their ground and may strike repeatedly. They can strike from a distance up to 2/3 their body size and strike faster then the human eye can see, so stay as far away as possible. They have some of the fiercest venom of any snake; victims can die within hours of being bitten.

The Mojave Rattlesnake

Know Thine Enemy: Generally 3-4.5 ft long, it has grayish diamond shape markings on its back like the diamondback, but it’s overall coloration is more green than brown.

Their hideout: The mojave rattlesnake primarily lives in the desert of the southwestern United States, so be on the look out for it when you’re riding a burro down the Grand Canyon.They are common in wide expanses of desert and can often be found near scrub brush. They hibernate during the winter.

How mean are they? Although there isn’t scientific date to back it up, mojaves have a reputation for being quite aggressive, especially towards people.

The Sidewinder Rattlesnake

Know Thine Enemy: The sidewinder gets its name from its trademark sideways locomotion. The reason they do this is to reduce the amount of contact they have with the hot desert sands and to increase their movement’s efficiency. Just watching this thing move puts you on notice that it’s a killing machine. Smaller than its rattling cousins, the sidewinder usually is 1.5-2 feet long. The sidewinder is light in color with darker bands on its back. In addition to its trippy sideways movement, evolution has given the sidewinder another killer advantage: it can survive in the desert without a single drop of water. They get all the water they need from the prey they devour. That’s right. When a sidewinder sees you walking along, you’re not only lunch, but also a canteen. Watch out.

Their hideout: These snakes can be found in the desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. During the cooler months (about December to February) the sidewinder is nocturnal. They are diurnal the rest of the year.

How mean are they? Their venom is weaker than their cousins, but still can cause a serious health threat. Tread lightly.

Timber Rattlesnake

Know Thine Enemy: Timber rattlesnakes have a yellow, brown, and rust orange coloring and are typically 3-4 ft in length. The timber rattler was immortalized during the American Revolution where it served as the symbol in the “Don’t Tread on Me Flag.” It also serves as the First Navy Jack.

Their hideout: Unlike many of its rattlesnake cousins who live in the deserts of the West, the timber rattlesnake is found in the eastern United States; it’s the only rattlesnake to make its home in the Northeast.

How mean are they? Timber rattlers are a much mellower breed of rattlesnakes, so they don’t bite too often. And they tend to rattle a lot before striking, giving you time to hightail it out of there.

Cottonmouth Snakes

Know Thine Enemy: The Cottonmouth is one scary snake. No one wants to see it slithering toward them at their favorite watering hole. Cottonmouth snakes are usually around 2 ft in length, although some have grown to a size of nearly 6 ft. Their brown, gray, tan, yellowish olive or blackish coloring, is segmented by dark crossbands. When threatened, cottonmouths will throw their head back and open their mouth wide, displaying the white interior from whence it derives the name “cottonmouth.”

Their hideout: The cottonmouth is an aquatic snake found in the south and southeast part of the United States. Cottonmouths make creeks, streams, marshes, and lakes their home, although they can also be found on dry land. Because of their affinity to water, cottonmouths are also known as water moccasins. Cottonmouths can be active during the day and night. But when it’s hot, they are usually found coiled or stretched out in the shade.

How mean are they? Despite their vicious reputation, in many cases the cottonmouth’s hiss is worse than its bite. Cottonmouths often engage in a showy threat display without attacking. This routine includes shaking their tail and letting a musky secretion rip from their anal glands. The scent of this snake fart has been compared to that of a billy goat; so if you smell goat, flee in the other direction.

Copperhead Snakes

Know Thine Enemy: Copperhead snakes are identified by their coppery colored head and neck. Adults reach lengths of 2 to 4 feet.

Their hideout: Copperheads are mainly found in the eastern part of the U.S. They make forest and woodlands their home. However, they do prefer to live closer to water.

How mean are they? Copperheads will only bite if they feel directly threatened, i.e., if you try to pick up or touch them. But this contact can happen inadvertently. Unlike many venomous snakes that usually slither away when humans are around, copperheads will freeze in place, often resulting in humans stepping on them and getting bitten. A bite from a copperhead is extremely painful but is not fatal if treated properly.


Cobras are probably the most famous of all the venomous snakes, thanks in part to Johnny and the gang at Cobra Kai Dojo in the Karate Kid. (I hate Johnny. What a prick.) Several species of cobras exist. What they all have in common is the distinct “hood” they make when they are threatened. In order to create this distinct cobra hood, cobras will flatten their body by spreading their ribs.

The King Cobra

Know Thine Enemy: The King Cobra is the world’s longest venomous snake, growing to a length of between 12 and 13 feet Wowza! Their olive green, tan, or black skin has pale yellow cross bands down the length of the body.

Their hideout: King Cobras are found in South and Southeast Asia. They can also be found in some parts of India. King Cobras typically live in dense highland forests near rivers and streams.

How mean are they? The King Cobra is one scary mother. The King Cobra doesn’t just feed on small rodents, this bad boy is cannibalistic- it eats other snakes. While the King Cobra is shy, it will attack if it is provoked. The venom from a King Cobra consists of extremely potent neurotoxins that attack the victim’s central nervous system. A single bite from a King Cobra can kill a full grown Asian Elephant. It can kill a man in half an hour.

The Red Spitting Cobra

Know Thine Enemy: Red Spitting Cobras vary in color from red to gray. They can grow to about 4 feet in length. What makes this cobra unique is its ability to “spit” or project their venom at their prey. Watch out!

Their hideout: Red Spitting Cobras are native to Africa are most common in that continent’s northeast region. They make their homes in brush and forests. The red spitting cobra is nocturnal, so make sure you zip up your tent!

How mean are they? Like the King Cobra, the Red Spitting Cobra is a timid and shy snake and will only attack when threatened. Unlike the King Cobra with its ultra toxic venom, the Red Spitting Cobra’s venom is much milder. While it may cause extreme sickness, a bite from a Red Spitting Cobra will probably not cause death. However, if the venom gets in your eyes and is not treated quickly, it can cause blindness so still take caution.

The Black Mamba Snake

Know Thine Enemy: The black mamba is the largest and most deadly snake in Africa. It also happens to be the fastest moving snake in the world. In short, this snake is a killing machine. The Black Mamba gets its name not from the fact that it has black skin, but because it is black on the inside of its mouth. The skin of a black mamba is actually gray to olive green. Black mambas can grow to a length of between 7 and 13 feet.

Their hideout: Black mambas make their home in the grasslands of Africa. You can find them primarily in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

How mean are they? Black Mambas are mean mothers. They will readily attack when threatened. They’ll make multiple attacks, aiming at the head and body. With each bite, they inject their super deadly venom. One bite from a black mamba has enough venom to kill 120-140 men. The venom paralyzes the muscles used for breathing and the victim consequently dies from suffocation.

An important note: While all this “enemy” language is in good fun, snakes actually play a vital role in our ecosystem. Without them, vermin and critters of many kinds would overrun us. These tips should help you avoid snakes, not seek them out for destruction. Unless it’s a do or die situation, leave the snake alone and move in the other direction.

Guide To Snakes Part 2: How To Avoid & Treat A Snakebite

man getting bit by snake in the face

Yesterday, in Part 1 of the Art of Manliness’ Guide to Snakes, we discussed how to identify various poisonous serpents. But knowing your enemy is only half the battle. You should also know how to avoid being bitten and what to do if you are. Therefore, today in Part 2 we present more necessary man vs. snake knowledge: how to avoid and treat a snakebite.

How to Avoid a Snake Bite

While the behavior of snakes is obviously not 100% predictable, you can minimize your chances of being bitten by taking several basic precautions. If you want to avoid being at the receiving end of a pair of venomous fangs, follow these simple guidelines while out romping in the wilderness:

Avoid tall grass. Many of the snakes mentioned in Part 1 of this post like to hang out in grassy areas and heavy underbrush. If you can, stick to the trails so you can clearly see what you’re stepping on. If you have to go off trail, be attentive lest you inadvertently step on a sleeping rattlesnake. If you must venture through tall grass, carry a stick and use it to probe the ground in front of you. And remember, there are always exceptions to the rule; a snake could very well be curled up in the middle of a well groomed trail. Always be aware of your surroundings.

Remember that snakes can climb. While they’re not squirrels, snakes can slither up trees and bushes. Most people never imagine they’ll see a snake at eye level, and are thus quite vulnerable to an aerial attack. The last thing you want is to feel that forked tongue on your face, so keep your wits about you.

Check before you stick your hand into a crevasse. Because snakes are pure evil, they like to hang out in the dark. Holes, a hollow log, or a crevasse in a rock are perfect places for a snake to hide. So before you go sticking your hand in any dark hole, check to make sure there isn’t a snake (or another critter) in there.

Zombie snake attack. Say you find a dead snake that you want to take and turn into a pair of snakeskin boots. Right on. But be careful when picking it up. Freshly dead snakes still have reflexes and can still bite you if you’re not careful. I’ve seen a dead snake slither around firsthand. It’s really creepy. Plus, many snakes are pretty sloth-like during the daytime. And they’re quite skillful at keeping completely still; it’s how they catch their prey. So a snake sunning himself may look good and dead, but may very well be sleeping with one beady eye open, its little reptilian brain thinking, “Just try it buddy.”

Don’t sleep in the enemy’s lair. Most snakes are nocturnal, so you don’t want to let down your guard come sunset. Don’t make your camp in snake territory. Avoid sleeping near a log or large branch, in tall grass, or next to rocky areas. And of course zip up your tent tight. Snakes may have those fierce fangs, but alas, they lack an opposable thumb. Keep your boots inside the tent (most tents come with shoe pockets) and make sure to zip the tent up again in the morning, lest a snake invite himself in while you’re on a hike.

Wear heavy boots and pants. If you’re going to be out exploring in the uncivilized wilderness, make sure your lower extremities are protected. Heavy boots and pants not only protect against fierce snakes but also your ankle’s other nemesis-ticks.

keenan thompson snakes on a plane

Bonus Tip: Always Check The Overhead Compartment For Snakes

The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Treat a Snake Bite

man getting bit by snake on the hand

No amount of precaution can prevent every bite. Sometimes accidents happen. And if it does happen, it’s important for you to immediately know what to do. Don’t be caught with a snakebite in the middle of the woods, scratching your head trying to remember this stuff; sear it into your brain. Getting bitten by a venomous snake is serious business. While the reactions vary from snake to snake, all venom is essentially designed to immobilize the victim and start the process of digestion. Venom is basically toxic snake saliva, ready to turn you into dinner. So if you’re bitten, seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t think the snake is poisonous. Better to be safe than sorry.


1. Wash the bite with soap and water as soon as possible. You want to remove as much of the snake’s spit as you can.

2. Keep the bitten area below the heart. This is done to slow the flow of the venom.

3. Take off any rings or watches. The venom is going to make you swell, and jewelry might cut off your circulation.

4. Tightly wrap a bandage two to four inches above the bite. If you can’t reach medical care within 30 minutes, wrap a bandage around the bitten appendage. This is to assist in reducing the flow of venom. You want to make it tight, but not too tight as to completely cut off the appendage’s circulation. That will only cause tissue damage.

5. If you have a snake bite kit, place the suction device over the bite to help draw the venom out of the wound. Leave on for a maximum of ten minutes. If used properly, a suction device can remove up to 30% of the venom.


Interesting Fact: “Antivenin” is made by first milking a snake’s fangs for its venom and then injecting a non-lethal dose of that venin into a horse. The horse naturally builds up antibodies to the venom. Its blood is then collected and the antibodies are extracted and made into antivenin for humans. Cool.




1. Cut the wound. While watching an old Western, you might have seen a cowboy making an incision above the snakebite in order to “drain” the venom. This isn’t a smart move because you increase the chances of causing an infection in the area.

2. Suck the venom. Another remedy we all have seen in the movies is people sucking the venom out with their mouth. You don’t want the venom in your mouth where it can get back into your bloodstream.

3. Apply ice to the wound. Ice can cause tissue and skin damage and inhibits the removal of venom when using a suction device.

4. Panic. If you’ve been bitten, try to avoid freaking out. If you’re with someone who has been bitten, try to keep them calm. The more you move and the faster your heart beats, the quicker the venom is going to be circulated throughout your body. So do your best to stay calm and remain as still as humanely possible.

Free Virtual Science Tools for Mexico

The Barboza Space Center in the USA is collaborating with Australia and Cabo Verde on the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures STEAM++ Program (science, technology engineering, visual and performing arts, computer languages and foreign languages).  We are helping students to become future astronauts, engineers and scientists.

May 6, 2017
The apps we curated for you today provide students with virtual labs where they can learn more on a wide variety of scientific phenomena. Using an inquiry-based learning approach, students will get to access interactive simulations, collaborate on quizzes, explore tables of elements and solve scientific puzzles all while having fun. We have included both Android and iPad apps, check them out and see which ones work for you. Enjoy

6 Good Virtual Science Lab Apps for Students
1- Lab4Physics – A Lab in Your Pocket
‘Lab4Physics is an educational solution designed to support teachers around the world improve science education, by making it easy and inexpensive to bring lab experiences into the classroom.  In this lab, students can find tools (like an accelerometer, a sonometer or a speedometer) that can help them measure gravity or acceleration in real time.’

2- Experience Biology
‘invites students to investigate basic scientific phenomena and concepts in biology through simulations and interactive labs. Using an inquiry-based learning approach, the apps challenge middle-school students with investigations and quizzes based on the students’ explorations of each interactive unit.’

3- 3D Molecules Edit & Test
‘“3D Molecules Edit & Test” allows one to build and manipulate 3D molecular models of organic and inorganic compounds. The key features of “3D Molecules Edit & Test” are 3D printing support and the “Test yourself” mode that allows learners to check their knowledge of the 3D structure of molecules. This is a valuable tool for chemistry students when learning about molecular bonding and orbitals with the aid of 3D visualisation. The app is great for any high school or college student in chemistry courses.’

4- Toca Lab
‘Welcome to Toca Lab! Explore the colorful and electrifying world of science and meet all 118 of the elements from the periodic table…Toca Lab is a place for playing and having fun, and with it we hope to inspire kids to explore science. While the periodic table in Toca Lab is accurate, the way new elements are created is not. Instead, it’s a fun way to experiment, discover and create curiosity in the world of science. Toca Lab is just a starting point for further exploration!’

5- LabInApp Physics Demo
‘LabInApp is a 3D, interactive virtual laboratory tool that focuses on heuristic approach of understanding science. This heuristic ideology facilitates students and teachers to perform science experiments on computers or mobile devices, and eliminates the physical barriers of actual laboratory. LabInApp’s real-time 3D computer graphics technology promotes “learn by doing” pedagogy. This enhances the ability of teacher to deliver a live demonstration of experiments/concepts/phenomenon/complex ideas in a controlled environment.’

6- Thomas Edison’s Secret Lab
‘Together with Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor of all time, the Secret Lab Kids will show you how fun science can be. In fact, it’s a BLAST! Unknown to the world, Thomas Edison had a secret lab where he invented a virtual version of himself and Von Bolt, a nearly-completed robot, to guide and inspire future generations of young scientists. ’

Mexico we need your help building a project.

Arduino Animatronic Eyes
After reviewing and scouring the internet like most hackers I decided what I wanted wasn’t documented well. So I set out to not only do the project for myself but to also try and get some sort of documentation.

For this project you will need:

Electronics side:
1 – Arduino board
1 – Breadboard (anysize)
2 – Servo’s I used Futaba S3003

Hardware side:
1 – Set of eyes (ebay, I specifically looked for realistic acrylic doll eyes that had the cornea bump in them).
1 – Set of RC Car half shafts
8 – EZ connectors*
4 – Servo horns (All of mine came with my servos)
Connecting rod (various sizes and thicknesses)
1 – Sheet of Plexiglass/Acryilic Sheet (I used this as my base. Only because I had it on hand.)
1 – 12″ length of Aluminum Angle Bracket

Assorted Extras:
Aluminium Shims fabricated on the spot from bar aluminum
Cotter pins
Threaded Rod (or a bolt with head cut off)
2 Part Epoxy

Hack Saw
Propane Torch

*NOTE: The EZ connector hole sizes are determined by the thickness of your connecting rod. I was lucky enough to have an RC Hobby store down the road so I purchased what was on clearance  If you buy the wrong size you could always attempt to drill a bigger hole in the EZ connector but it may be more of a pain.

Step 1: Hardware Setup

Hardware Setup
Unfortunately these eyes were a Halloween rush so I didn’t document the build well. I will do my best to explain how I did everything.

For the first step start with a well drawn out plan. Keep it simple.  Servo 1 is for the X-Axis.  Servo 2 is for the Y-Axis (see picture).

“Keep it simple servo” – Christen Gundersen

Next you will want to start marking out on the plexiglass, or piece of wood, etc where the servos will be and where the eye brackets will be.

Everything starts with a good plan!

My first cheap test using ping pong balls.

Step 2: Cutting and Mounting Eye Brackets

Cutting and Mounting Eye Brackets
When I made my eye brackets I did all freehand with little planning but I learned quite a few things doing it that I will pass on to you.

NOTE: I did drill three holes to allow for expansion for eyelids.

When finding out where you want to drill your holes for the eyeball rod (see pic). You must take into account to leave room for your nut on the inside of the bracket. If you drill the hole two low you won’t be able to install the nut.

You don’t have to cut notches in your brackets on the right side. (I am not sure why I did actually…..) You do need to have notches on the left side of the eyeballs for the control rods to pass by without rubbing.

To mount the brackets I drilled a small hole through both the aluminum and the plexi, then I used some spare screws to mount them.

CAUTION: You have to pre-drill plexiglass before you screw into it otherwise you WILL crack it.

Last thing is ensure your eyes are far enough apart that you can fit the servo’s behind comfortably.

Step 3: Mounting Servos/horns.

Mounting Servos/horns.
Cut your base to receive the servos. I didn’t have much in the way of cutting tools for plexiglass so I used a drill on the four corners and then used a dremel cutting bit to cut the rectangles. You don’t want the plexi to melt so take your time and move pretty quickly.

When mounting the servos, servo #2 needs to be shimmed higher. This is for two reasons 1) to keep the servo horn in line with the top of the eyeball and 2) to keep it from interfering with the servo # 1 control rods.

Next you will want to attach the secondary horns to act as dummies to move the second eye. Placement is critical so you don’t get a “lazy eye”. I mounted them using shims or washers to raise the horn to the servo’s level. (see pic) Also the washer that is touching the horn is a nylon(plastic) washer to ease friction.

Step 4: Prepping and Mounting Eyeballs

Prepping and Mounting Eyeballs
When you receive the eyes they are for dolls so we have to prep them.

This is a four step process:

1) Take the back half of the eyeball and cut off a half inch ring of the widest part. (see pic two)
2) Glue the ring to the eye using two part epoxy. DO NOT get glue on the front of the eyeball or you will ruin the realistic touch. Use the glue sparingly.
3) Don’t touch them until the glue dries.*
4) Drill a hole in the top and left side of eyeball #1 and on the top and left side of eyeball #2. This hole is to receive the cotter pin in step five.

*While the eyeballs cure you will want to get onto the eyeball mounting rod/pivot point.

So I was trying to figure out how I would get the pivot point done during brainstorming and I came across the half shafts at the RC store. What I had to do was cut them down to a more manageable size and find a mounting rod.

The mounting rod is just a bolt I had laying around that I “screwed” into the half shaft and then bolted to the bracket. This was such a tight connection I didn’t even have to glue it!

Once your half shaft is on the rod you can epoxy it to the eyeball stub with the two part epoxy. Ensure you let the epoxy fully cure so as not to weaken it.

Lastly, mount the eyeball mounting rod onto the bracket. Take time to ensure the eyeballs are the same distance from the bracket and don’t adjust them anymore.

Step 5: Installing Connecting Rods

Installing Connecting Rods
For my setup, I used some connecting rod/push rod they had at the RC store. Do note these rods come in varying lengths and diameters so be sure you get your EZ connectors to match.

The great thing about the connecting rods and EZ connectors is that you can adjust it to any length indefinitely because the rod just slips through the EZ connector and the screw on top clamps the rod in place.

Cut your rods to length either using heavy duty pliers or even the hack saw. The important thing is to ensure you have no burrs on the end so it will slip into the EZ connector.

On the end that is going to the eyeball, you will need to devise some sort of hook. For this task, I employed the use of a cotter pin because it was readily available in my garage and because it already had a nice “hook” feature to it. What you need to do is cut one leg of the cotter pin short and solder the longer leg to your connector rod. Once you have it soldered on (and cooled) you can hook it into the holes you drilled in the eyeballs and close it using pliers.

For the last part you need to insert it into the EZ Connector on the horns but do not tighten them down yet. (they should be able to slide on the rods for now)

Step 6: Wire Up the Servos

Wire Up the Servos
Using my breadboard, so I could drive both servos from the Arduino’s on board 5VDC, I set up the board as follows:

1) 5VDC(ORANGE WIRE) to breadboard power strip
2) GND(BLUE WIRE) to breadboard power strip (I try to use the same ground on both servos)
3) Digital PIN 8(YELLOW WIRE BOTTOM) to horizontal servos (X-Axis)
4) Digital PIN 9(YELLOW WIRE TOP) to vertical servos (Y-Axis)

That’s it! Now on to the software side.

Step 7: Programming

This may be the single most confusing part of the project so I tried to write as much code as I could to ideally minimize the issues you may have.

All files are in the

First here is the code to get your servos centered. The problem you face is getting the servo position correct. Keep in mind these servos go from 0 to 180 degrees.

So in summary we want to set the servos to 90 and 90 so its in the center of the servos “range of motion”. Then we can set the Horizontal (X-Axis) and Vertical (Y-Axis) limits. For that you can use the eyes_servo_single_test changing horServo.write(); and vertServo.write();

[eyes_servo_single_test CODE]

#include <Servo.h>

Servo horServo;
Servo vertServo;

void setup(){

void loop(){


Next I would use eyes_full_servo_test again plugging in your high and low values for the servos that way you can see if you have any binding. I built in a blinking key so you can visualize what step your on. You can always stop it midway by pulling the USB cord.

[eyes_full_servo_test CODE]

//This is a quick servo position test I did for my Eye Project
//The servos move from the set postions for the X and Y axis
//Test one sets the LED HIGH 20 seconds, long blink.
//Test two sets the servos at position 40,0 for 6.5 seconds, two blinks.
//Test three sets the servos at position 80,0 for 7.5 seconds, three blinks.
//Test four sets the servos at position 0,70 for 8.5 seconds, four blinks.
//Test five sets the servos at position 0,110 for 9.5 seconds, five blinks.


#include <Servo.h> //servo library

Servo horServo; //x-axis servo
Servo vertServo; //y-asxis servo
int led = 13;

void setup(){
horServo.attach(8); //x-axis servo pin 8
vertServo.attach(9); //y-axis servo pin 9
pinMode(led, OUTPUT);

void loop(){
//==================TEST ONE=============//

//Servos in resting or center position.

//blink once
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);

//============Test Two=================//

//test two blinks twice

horServo.write(20); //x left limit

//blink twice
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);

//=================Test Three==================//

//test three blinks three times

horServo.write(80); //x right limit

//blink three times
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);

//==================Test four==================//

//Test four blinks four times

vertServo.write(0); //y top limit

//blink four times
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);

//=================Test Five===================//

//Test Five blinks five times

vertServo.write(110); //y bottom limit

//blinks five times
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);


//Servos back to resting or center. Testing ended hit RESET or wait FOREVER

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);



The code uses PI to move the eyes in a radius. You need to ensure you have your servos on pin 8 and 9 or change it in the code. Once you are confident you have everything set properly you can set the EZ connectors in place.

[eyes_sketch CODE]

#include <math.h>

#define pi    3.14159265358979323846
#define twopi (2*pi)
float circleradius = 50; //50 each side – make no more any of your max limit values
float stepnumber = 360;
float stepangle;

#include <Servo.h> //include servo library for servo control

Servo horServo; //servo for left/right movement
Servo vertServo; //servo for up/down movement

byte randomhor; //define random horizontal position variable
byte randomvert; //define random vertical position variable
int randomdelay; //define random delay variable

#define HLEFTLIMIT 40 //define left limit on horizontal (left/right) servo
#define HRIGHTLIMIT 80 //define right limit on horizontal (left/right) servo

#define VTOPLIMIT 70//define top limit on vertical (up/down) servo
#define VBOTLIMIT 110 //define bottom limit on horizontal (up/down) servo

void setup()
horServo.attach(8); //horizontal servo on pin 8
vertServo.attach(9); //vertical servo on pin 9
randomSeed(analogRead(0)); //Create some random values using an unconnected analog pin

stepangle = twopi/stepnumber;
for(int i = 0; i<stepnumber; i++){
float angle = i*stepangle;
float x = sin(angle)*circleradius;
float y = cos(angle)*circleradius;

x = map(x, 1-circleradius, circleradius, 0, 2*circleradius);
y = map(y, 1-circleradius, circleradius, 0, 2*circleradius);

horServo.write(x); //write to the horizontal servo
vertServo.write(y); //write to the horizontal servo


void loop()
randomhor = random(HLEFTLIMIT, HRIGHTLIMIT); //set limits
randomvert = random(VTOPLIMIT, VBOTLIMIT); //set limits
randomdelay = random(1000, 4000); //moves every 1 to 4 seconds

horServo.write(randomhor); //write to the horizontal servo
vertServo.write(randomvert); //write to the vertical servo
delay(randomdelay); //delay a random amount of time (within values set above)


Step 8: Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches
I chose to also learn how to make a mask AND learn to fiberglass. I won’t be going into those steps here but you can find out on other instructables (I did!)

I did a simple fiberglass mask and riveted in some angle brackets to hold the eye in place.

Good Luck everyone! Be sure to leave feedback for version 2.0!

Who will get to Mars first?

Europe and Russia prepare for historic landing on Mars

Schiaparelli touchdown would be ESA’s first success on the red planet.

17 October 2016

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An ESA visualization of Schiaparelli landing on Mars

Almost three weeks after it crash-landed the Rosetta orbiter on a comet, the European Space Agency (ESA) is gearing up to land another spacecraft — this time on Mars. It hopes that a craft called Schiaparelli will touch down on the red planet on 19 October.

Compared to the pioneering Rosetta mission, landing on Mars is a more conventional feat. But for ESA, the stakes are high, given that the tally of successful landings on Mars currently stands at NASA 7, Europe 0.

Operating on the planet’s surface would also be a first for Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, which is a partner in the mission — and which plans to partake in future joint Europe–Russia missions, including a 2020 rover landing on Mars. The Soviet Union came close to success in 1971 with the Mars 3 probe, which failed just 20 seconds after landing on the surface.

Given the importance of the landing, the descent through Mars’s thin atmosphere will represent “our own six minutes of terror”, says Francesca Ferri, a planetary scientist at the University of Padua in Italy, referencing a line coined to describe the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2012. “Around 50% of the landings on Mars haven’t succeeded, so it’s not easy. But I’m feeling pretty confident,” says Ferri, who leads an experiment to study atmospheric data from Schiaparelli’s descent.

The ESA-designed Schiaparelli lander, which is about the size of a Smart car, represents one part of the ExoMars mission that launched from Kazakhstan in March on a Russian rocket. The other half is an orbiter — also designed by ESA — that will analyse gases in Mars’s atmosphere, starting from December 2017.

Dusty landing

Schiaparelli separated from its mothership on 16 October. Its main job is to demonstrate landing technology, although it will also have a short science mission, studying the dust storms of the red planet for as long as its batteries last, probably between two and four days.

The lander is touching down in dust-storm season — and NASA scientists have warned that Mars could see a rare planet-wide storm this year, which would make for challenging landing conditions and hamper visibility. So far, ESA scientists say there are no signs of a major event, although that could change at any time. Schiaparelli has been designed and tested with dust storms in mind, but a strong storm could still cause problems. It would be ideal to have “nice and clear weather for the descent, but a dust storm come a day or two later”, says Håkan Svedhem, ExoMars 2016 project scientist at ESA. He says the craft should land safely whatever the weather.

The idea of landing in the middle of a dust storm thrills Francesca Esposito, the principal investigator for the lander’s DREAMS instrument, which will measure characteristics of Mars’s dust, as well as recording data on temperature, wind speed, humidity and pressure at the planet’s surface. “A dust storm, or at least electrified dust in the atmosphere, would be great for us,” says Esposito, who works at the INAF Astronomical Observatory of Capdiomonte in Naples, Italy. A dusty atmosphere would also warm the night-time temperature on Mars, which would reduce the need for the lander to heat itself and stretch its battery life, she says.

Lightning on Mars

An antenna on the DREAMS instrument will measure Mars’s electrical field for the first time, and could detect lightning, if it exists on Mars. The team hopes to learn whether electric fields trigger dust storms, whether these in turn enhance the planet’s electric fields, and how the storms eventually die out. Such information could aid basic understanding of the physics of Mars’s atmosphere, and could be useful for future crewed missions to the planet or for building habitats on Mars.

Schiaparelli is aiming for a smooth plain known as Meridiani Planum. NASA’s Opportunity rover is situated around 15 kilometres outside Schiaparelli’s 100 km × 15 km landing ellipse, and will try to get snapshots of the probe’s descent, says Mark Lemmon, a planetary scientist at Texas A&M University in College Station. Although ExoMars’s parachute may appear as no more than a speck, the pictures could help reveal how winds influence its trajectory, says Lemmon, adding that such shots would represent the first time a Mars landing has been seen from below.

Anyone expecting spectacular pictures from Schiaparelli itself might be disappointed — photos will be limited to 15 black-and-white shots of the Martian surface from the air, intended to help piece together the craft’s trajectory. No photos will be taken on the surface, because the lander lacks a surface camera.

For now, Svedhem is just hoping for a first successful European landing. For the first three minutes after entering Mars’s thin atmosphere, Schiaparelli will be slowed by drag alone before its parachute deploys to decelerate the craft more rapidly. A little over a kilometre from the surface, after 5 minutes and 22 seconds, the parachute should detach and thrusters will kick in. A 30-second burn will leave the craft a few metres off the ground and travelling at a few metres per second before it drops to the surface, where a crushable honeycomb structure on its base should cushion its landing. “I can’t relax until we really know it’s standing on the ground,” says Svedhem.


Who wants to go to Mars?

MDRS Crew 177 – Final Mission Report

The following is the final summary report of Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Crew 177 (Lone Star Highlanders). A full review of this year’s activities at MDRS will be presented at the 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for September 7-10, 2017 at University of California Irvine. A call for abstracts for the convention was issued recently, with a June 30th deadline.

Crew 177, Lone Star Highlanders, a team representing McLennan Community College, from Waco-Texas, stationed at Mars Dessert Research Station, MDRS, from March 26th until April 1st, for a one-week rotation as a part of McLennan Community College Mars 101 program with the main goal of providing an introduction to analog field research and training in all aspects of MDRS sim.  The team consisted of eight participants, six students conducting independent projects, and two faculty members serving a Commander and Co-Commander. Projects conducted by students were engineering and biology related.

Pitchayapa Jingjit is a freshman at McLennan Community College. She is planning to transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a degree in science in hope to attend a medical school. Her research project is trying to find bacteria producing antibiotics in order to combat the antibiotic resistance crisis. She collected soil samples containing bacteria from different point of interest around the Mars Desert Research Station and bring those samples back to McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas to begin the laboratory work. Furthermore, she conducted a microbiology EVA to find the presence of Gram negative enteric bacteria and Gram positive staph bacteria in the HAB and the Green HAB. As expected, she found both Gram positive and negative bacteria in both the HAB and the Green HAB.

Caleb Li is a sophomore year student of McLennan Community College, majoring in Electrical Engineering. He was planning to design a LED digital clock that put on the air lock to optimize the crew member’s experience while waiting to go out to do EVA. He was using the FPGAs on the Basys 2 Board to implement the clock function, time counting function, and alarm system. On Sol 4 he installed the clock in the air lock.  The afternoon EVA crew used his posted instructions to operate the LED clock when they returned to the hab. He will continue working on the alarm system and more advanced functions back to the school.

Elijah Espinoza is a freshman Mechanical Engineering student at McLennan. He is at MDRS working on a robot with Victoria LaBarre. His part of the robot is an arm that is attached to the robot that can pick up various objects such as rocks. The robot is in the early stages of a long project that will eventually be able to go out on its own and rescue an astronaut that is hurt. It is designed to be a rescue ambulance called the Emergency Medical Service Rover (EMSR). He is using a Vex competition kit to power the arm. On SOL 5 he and Victoria went out to the Cow Patty Field and tested the robot to observe how it moved on the terrain and how it picked up different sized rocks. The robot Elijah and Victoria are working on is a progression from Victoria’s project last year. Elijah plans to continue to work on the project when they get back to McLennan.

Victoria LaBarre is a sophomore student at McLennan Community College, majoring in electrical engineering. This is her second time coming to MDRS. On her first trip in 2016, she tested prototype one of the Emergency Medical Service Rover (EMSR) and conducted two human driver tests. When fully realized, the EMSR will be able to automatically go out into the field and retrieve an injured astronaut to bring them back to the Hab. This year, 2017, prototype two was developed and tested at Mars by LaBarre and her partner Elijah Espinoza. LaBarre worked on the drive train and the programming of the robot. The robot’s strength and dexterity were tested in Cow Patty field by picking up different sized rocks, which were then brought back to the Hab to be measured.

Esteban Ramirez is a first-year student at McLennan Community College majoring in Biomedical Engineering. His project dealt with energy concerns a Mars exploration would have. The amount of available energy to a crew or device is what gives them the ability to carry out their jobs on any space expedition. His project tested the feasibility and consequences of providing a bike generator for a Martian exploration to increase efficiency and health of the crew. Once arriving at MDRS various tests were done on the generator bike to calibrate and fix problems with the battery. Multiple tests on crew mates were done and data was collected such as voltage created, time spent, and calories used. These data will be analyzed and aggregated to find correlations between efficiency and various other variables such as height, weight, and age. Conclusions will be presented at McLennan Community College on Scholar Day.

Joseph Quaas is a freshman computer science student who came to MDRS in order to develop a virtual reality simulation of the MDRS site. The simulation is to consist of a basic rescue operation consisting of the user learning the location of a person, who is need of assistance, driving the rover to their location, and bringing them back to the hab. There were some developmental problems during the week concerning the implementation of certain 3D models and scripting, but good progress was still made on the project. The entire premise of virtual reality, especially a sim based upon a real-life location, is to immerse the user in a virtual environment that is as close to the real-life version as possible. During his time at MDRS, he saw and got the feel of many locations around MDRS and made adjustments to the landscape in the sim in order to make the sim more accurate.

Becky Parker is a Marketing Professor at McLennan Community College.  Her project is preparation of a marketing plan for recruiting student and faculty participants for future Mars missions as well as other travel course.  She used her time at Mars to take photos and videos of the mission to be used in marketing materials, and to conduct interviews with each participant.  She led a brainstorming session in order to get student input for the plan.

Dr. Otsmar Villarroel, chemistry professor at McLennan Community College, served as the crew 177 commander. He enjoyed her second rotation at MDRS designing the every day’s activities during crew’s mission. He also led planned EVAs for Orientation, Geology, Chemistry and independent projects.

We would like to thank the Mars Society and McLennan Community College for allowing us being part of this invaluable experience. We are deeply thankful for the opportunity.

First Robotics Competition in Long Beach, California

Long Beach_6693.jpg

The Boeing Company/Neighborhood Group/Polytechnic  & Sato Academy Math & Science (Nickname: Momentum No. 4999) Long Beach, California


Since receiving their robot kits and parts teams have been gearing up for this exciting event.  We arrived on the campus of California State University on the events move in and robot testing day.  Founder Dean Kamen calls first First Robotics “ Sport for the Mind.”

This year, audiences will be witnessing the STEAMPUNK-themed challenge FIRST STEAMWORKS.  Dean Kamen, comments that, “ Steampunk and other forms of science fiction are a powerful reminder of the potential of innovation to make fantasy a reality. Science-fiction technologies imagined by one generation become he real-world technologies invented by the next, The impossible becomes possible.”

We invite you to visit our Kids Talk Radio Science photo essay.