Engineering is out of this world

Phoenix Contact and students celebrate National Engineers Week with Mars rover simulation project

Middletown, Pa. – Students from Middletown Area Middle School in Middletown, Pa., and Foose Elementary School in Harrisburg, Pa., visited Mars this week. Not literally, of course, but to celebrate Engineers Week, Phoenix Contact engineers created a new lesson plan that simulated a Mars rover while teaching basic programming skills.

The class was based on last week’s successful landing of the Perseverance rover in Mars’s Jezero Crater. The class scenario imagines that shortly after the landing, a major dust storm hits the red planet, scattering supplies across the crater. The students’ mission is to travel in search of these lost supplies. The students need to figure out the proper programming code to move the rover around obstacles on the planet’s surface to arrive at the designated location.

On Day 1, the engineers gave students an overview of engineering as a career and discussed the basics of programming. On Day 2, the students broke out into small groups to program the sequence and sent their programs to “Mission Control.” On Day 3, students watched a live video of the rover as it followed the path they programmed along Mars’s surface (a simulation built by Phoenix Contact employees.) Teams earned points for programming accuracy.

For more than a decade, Phoenix Contact engineers taught sixth-grade science classes at Middletown Area Middle School during National Engineers Week. For several years, Phoenix Contact has also partnered with Foose on a yearlong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum for fourth grade.

“The students at both Middletown and Foose look forward to these programs and would have been disappointed if we had to cancel them this year,” said Patricia Marrero, vice president of organizational development and talent acquisition. “Even though our engineers cannot visit the classrooms in person, we found a creative way to continue the tradition and add a timely new project to teach STEM skills.”

National Engineers Week, Feb. 21 through 27, promotes engineering and technology careers to young students and honors engineers’ contributions to society. Phoenix Contact also honored its engineers with a virtual award ceremony on Wednesday, February 24.

About Phoenix Contact
PHOENIX CONTACT develops and manufactures industrial electrical and electronic technology products that power, protect, connect, and automate systems and equipment for a wide range of industries. Phoenix Contact GmbH & Co. KG, Blomberg, Germany, operates 50 international subsidiaries, including Phoenix Contact USA, Inc., in Middletown, Pa.

For more information about Phoenix Contact or its products, visit, call technical service at 800-322-3225, or e-mail

Molly McGowan, APR
Media Services Specialist
Phone: (717) 944-1300, ext. 3721
Fax: (717) 944-1625

All Topics