#4 Ready for Take-Off?

We learnt how robots find their way around using coordinates, let’t check how we can actually get there! By the way, what do robots look like? If you just pictured something resembling a human with arms and a head… Sorry, but you are about to find out that conception of robots is not that accurate! 

Join us on this adventure through the world of Robots and Drones! You will learn all about their basic building blocks and how they work.


When I get lost I ask for help from a friend who lives in outer space. They message back my starting position. What are we?

I am a Drone and my friend is a GPS Satellite.

Did not fully understand it?! Fear not! You will become a drone expert by the end of this activity.

hello smart parents


If you are not familiar with the activities, please take the time to review the instructions for an optimal learning experience:

hello smart cookies!


In Activity #1 The Language of Computers Zac found an old computer in the attic of their house. His mom, Dottie helped him to communicate with the computer in Binary.

In Activity #2 Secret Messaged Disclosed they got some strange messages from the computer. They used a Caesar Cipher and Vigenére square to decode them. 

In Activity #3 Navigating the World they realised that the message was geographic coordinates pointing to a pretty interesting location. Join us to discover more about it!

mission #4

Your fourth mission is to learn how to fly – not literally! 


Dottie: Are you still researching about Cape Canaveral Air Force Station?

Zac:  Yeah, there is so much to learn about it! 

Dottie: I know, it is a place full of history and technology. What are your favourite findings so far?

Zac: Well, here is a funny coincidence, all interstellar probes were launched from there. Interstellar probes are space probes particularly designed to leave the Solar System and enter interstellar space. 

Dottie: That is a cool fact, but why do you think this is a coincidence?

Zac: Because these probes are the only thing we, humans,  sent outside the Solar System, into interstellar space, aka the GALAXY. And the book that helped us unlock the computer was called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GALAXY”!

Dottie: Wooow, of course, I see.. That is an interesting coincidence indeed! Good catch, you are a great detective! What else did you learn about them?

Zac: I found out that there are five interstellar space probes in total. In order of launch, they were:

  • 1️⃣ Pioneer 10
  • 2️⃣ Pioneer 11
  • 3️⃣ Voyager 2
  • 4️⃣ Voyager 1
  • 5️⃣ New Horizons

They were all launched in the 70’s with the exception of the New Horizons in 2006.

Pioneer 10 & 11

Voyager 1 & 2

New Horizons

Dottie: Excellent! I know that the reason why they were launched in the 70’s is because of what was known as the once-in-a-lifetime alignment

Zac: That sounds like an important and rare event!

Dottie: Exactly! It is important because space probes travel in space using planets’ gravity to gain speed. So, the planets need to be perfectly aligned to allow interstellar probes to get enough speed to leave the Solar System. This alignment is a rare event because it only happens once in 175 year, and the late 70’s was the last time it happened.

Zac: So, you are basically saying that space probes go hitchhiking in space, getting a “ride” or push from planets? That sounds mind-blowing, I definitely want to learn more about that!

Dottie: But this is a long story, for another time… Any other interesting fact that might help us?
Zac: Interstellar probes are headed in different direction and travel really fast, but we lost contact with the first two: Pioneer 10 and 11. So we can only estimate where they are in the universe.

Interstellar Space Probes Trajectory. Source: NASA

Dottie: That is true, NASA makes information on the Voyagers and New Horizons live on their website. You can check them out later, there is a lot of good information about the missions there!

Zac: I know, I have done a good amount of research so far and I have reached an important conclusion!

Dottie: What is it?

Zac: If we want to progress with our investigation, we really need to visit that Cape Canaveral, especially the Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center! 

Dottie: Well, I get that this computer must have belonged to someone very important. It sent us encrypted text and we found out the coordinates to this location. But how do you think going there would help?

Zac:  I guess it makes sense to take the computer there and tell them this story. I am sure this is somehow connected to our galaxy! Someone must be waiting for this computer.

Dottie: Yeah, that makes sense! Well, I was thinking of taking you on a holiday as your birthday is around the corner.  We could go now, but you are going to miss school!

Zac: Yeah, and this is Robotics Week in school… 

Dottie: Perhaps, I can teach you some robotics on the way there, so you don’t miss out on school too much. How about we start celebrating your birthday today by going on a trip to Cape Canaveral? As usual, you get to choose what we are doing for your birthday. 

Zac: That sounds awesome, let’s do it! It is going to be a long trip, I will be an expert by the time we get there.  Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, here we come!!!

Dottie: So, let’s start learning about robots?



You will learn all about robot’s main components and how they work together!

Here are two great videos by Hank and Jessi from SciShow. Let’s check them out!

Interesting, right? The definition of Robot is just so much broader than what most people think! Robots come in a lot of sizes and shapes, the way they look depends on the type of tasks that they were designed to perform.

Key Point

Robots are autonomous machines capable of sensing its environment, computing smart decisions, and acting in the real world

Robots are great for tasks that have the following characteristics:
  • 🔄 repetitive: such as cleaning (e.g. vacuum cleaners like roomba at homes)
  • 📏precise: such as putting together car parts (e.g. robotic arms can weld, assemble, paint, etc.)
  • 💣hazardous: such as exploring new planets (e.g. rovers like opportunity and curiosity on Mars)
  • 💬simple interactions: such as banking (e.g. ATM’s automate a lot of simple tasks)
  • 💦 intense labour: such as surveying and harvesting (e.g. Wall-Ye pruning vines)
activity sheet

We prepared some really fun activities related to Robots, check below a summary of what to expect from the activity sheet:

  • 1️⃣ you will learn how your body parts relate to the robots parts
  • 2️⃣ you will go hunting for robots
  • 3️⃣ you will do some research to find your favourite robot (categories, list)
  • 4️⃣ you will design your robot!

Comment below or Share your robot design on Social Media and tag us @smarteduclub or #SMARTEduChallenge

Smart Edu

Congratulation on taking your first step to become a Roboticist!

Roboticists are professionals who design, build, program, and experiment with robots. They usually have backgrounds in disciplines like

  • electrical engineering design the control system with sensors and actuators
  • ⚙️ mechanical engineering design the frame, body, actuators and end-effectors
  • 👩‍💻 computer science design programs/artificial intelligence for complex tasks

Roboticists often work at universities, factories, and research labs. However, Amateur Robotics is a growing hobby all over the world, so you might consider that for starters!


Zac: I feel like I learnt so much already and we haven’t even left Texas! Hey mom, is that a llama?!

Dottie: Hmm, it looks a bit too small for a llama, so I would say it is an alpaca.

Zac: Interesting, the alpaca is hitchhiking, I wonder if they read the book too?! He looks experienced in hitchhiking, I am sure he could teach me some tips and tricks for when I go to the Galaxy! Can we give them a ride, please? For my birthday?! 

Dottie: Oh Zac, will you ever ask me for something easy? Sure we should always try helping others, so let’s just ask when they are going. 

Zac: Wooow great, this is my best birthday already!

Dottie: Good afternoon, do you want a ride in this direction?

Albert: Good afternoon Ma’am and boy. Yes, that would be wonderful! Where are you guys going?

Zac: We are going to Cape Canaveral in Florida. Do you know where that is?

Alberto: Florida, that sounds wonderful! Can I join you?!

Dottie: Sure, there should be enough room for you in the backseat. What is your name?

Alberto: Thank you so much!!! This is much better than the previous means of transport to get here from Mexico. Ah America, I know I will love this place! Anyway, my name is Alberto. What are your names?

Zac: I am Zac and this is my mom, Dottie. So you are just moving from Mexico here?

Alberto: Sí sí, this is my first time in America! Nice meeting you Dottie and Zac, very friendly American family, thank you! 

Tell me more about the place you are going to in Florida?! I heard there is a lot of Mexicans there! 

Zac: Cape Canaveral is by the cost. We are going to the Air Force Station from where they launch rockets into space.

Alberto: Cool, that sounds like a wonderful place!!! I love the beach and rocket launch sounds muy interesting. It would be amazing to get some  footage of a rocket launching with my new drone!

Dottie: Sorry Alberto, but I don’t think there will be any rockets launching now. Moreover, even if that was the case, you would not be allowed to do that, as your drone could ruin their launch plans. 

Zac: That’s a pity! Mom, could drones be considered a type of robot too?!

Dottie: That is a great question Zac. 



You will learn everything about drones: their structure, operation and controls!

Let’s consider the drone below. Hover the mouse to check the description of the parts:

Camera cover
Motor & propeller
Control system
Motor & propeller
Motor & propeller
Communications system

Source: image from Parrot

There definitely is a lot of similarities in terms of the structure! Can you identify the building blocks to the Body, Sensory, Brain and Muscle Systems? What about a Power Source? Check out this short animation where you can see the parts in more detail. This is really cool stuff!

 Now that you got an overview the structure, let’s check this video by Jesse – The travelling Scientist – where he explains the science behind flying drones!  

After learning a lot more about drones, let’s go back to Zac’s question: Can drones be considered a type of robot?

Well, robots are autonomous machines, meaning that they don’t need to be controlled all the time, they just do the job by themselves. Most drones needs to constantly receive commands from the remote controller to tell them what to do next, they only have some limited intelligence to avoid obstacles. 

So, the main difference between most drones and robots is that, they cannot navigate the world on their own. However, there are smart drones in research labs that can navigate the world on their own and even accomplish some really impressive tasks, including working in cooperation with other smart drones! 

Key Point

Robots are autonomous machines, only a few smart drones have this capability of navigating the world on their own. 

activity sheet

If you are still a bit confused, fear not! We prepared prepared an activity sheet to help you, it includes the following:

  • 1️⃣ Detailed description of a drone’s main components 
  • 2️⃣ Detailed summary of their operations and controls
  • 3️⃣ Really fun card game to play with a family member! 

Make sure to read the first two pages carefully because they will help you win the card game!

If you were doing the activity by yourself, you can ask someone to ask you the questions and you can see how many cards you get right. If another family member did the activity with you, let us know who won the card game!

Comment below or Share the final result on Social Media and tag us @smarteduclub or #SMARTEduChallenge

Smart Edu


Dottie: If the directions are right, Kennedy Space Centre should be just around this corner! 

Zac: Finally!!! Can we go to the Space Centre before going to the Air Force Station deliver the computer? Would they allow Alberto join us?

Dottie: Sure, I can just check if they are an alpaca friendly place and get our tickets while you guys stretch your legs and get some fresh air. I will be right back. 

Zac: We won’t go anywhere!  

Alberto, can you show me your drone in the meantime?

Alberto: Sí sí, of course! I am still new to this drone thing, maybe you could help me. This is not an alpaca friendly device, it is very hard to put it together with my hands. 

Zac: Sure, I can help! It seems pretty straight forward to assemble. We just need to unfold the propellers, and press the on button in the drone and controller, now they are connected!

Alberto: Wow, that was much easier and faster than I thought. I can see here that the battery is full, so maybe we can do a quick test flight and get some footage. What do you think?!

Zac: That would be great!!! Considering the queues, it will take a while for mom to come back, plus there is no rocket launch on today, so we should be fine!

Alberto: Muy bien, let’s do it! 

Use the app below to help Alberto and Zac with their footage. You will also get a tour of the facilities, so make sure to read the name and the description of each of the them to learn more about Cape Canaveral Air Force Station! 

Watch the battery level! You may need to come back to the starting point to change the battery. 

Smart Edu

Let's Fly


Target: (?, ?) Current: (8, 10) Battery: 100%

Source: image from Kennedy Space Centre


Alberto: Great, I think that is a wrap, the footage looks wonderful. Thank you so much!!! I feel like I am living a dream, or maybe this is heaven and you and your mom are angels, or… could it be a movie?!

Zac: You are welcome Alberto. We are happy to help you and I am happy to apply my robotics and geographic coordinate knowledge, I knew it would come in handy some day! 

Alberto: Now, let’s just pack the drone into the bag. Hopefully Dottie will be back soon with the tickets. 

Policewoman: Good afternoon, were you guys flying this drone?

Zac: hmm… yeah?! But I know everything about the geographic coordinates and we made sure there were no rocket launches today. 

Dottie: Hi guys, I am back, all good here?

Policewoman: Well, apparently, these two were flying a drone in a forbidden area! Are you responsible for them?
Dottie: Yes, I am. Really? I am sorry, I just went to the ticket’s office to check if Alberto could join us visiting Kennedy Space Centre, but I had to queue for ages. I didn’t know they were going to fly the drone! Can we just delete the images and footage that they took?

Alberto: Dottie and Zac have nothing to the with this! I am sorry, the idea was mine, the drone is mine. Please don’t  do anything to them, you can take me in custody if you want. I knew…

Policewoman: Stop, I will have to take all of you with me to the police station.
Oh no! It sounds like Dottie, Zac and Alberto are in trouble!!!!

do you want some inspiration?

There are a lot of TED Talks about drones with really impressive demonstrations, we suggest that you watch some of them. They are great fun! We loved this one where Marco does magic with mini drones.


👏 Impressive work, well done for making it here! We hope you are enjoying the activity and come back for the last one!!!

🙏 Support us by sharing SMART Edu Challenge with your friends using the buttons below! 

Smart Edu

👇 Comment your robot’s name and its features. Also, let us know who won the drone card game! We would love to hear what you thought of the story! What are your predictions for their future?!

Stay tuned!

Activity #5: Exploring the Universe

We know it would not be fair to finish the #SMARTEduChallenge like this. So we are working on the a bonus activity for you!

2 thoughts on “#4 Ready for Take-Off?”

  1. Ivan O Riordan

    Best one yet, learning about and designing robots was great fun, massive excitement with my boys to see what happens next, can’t wait for challenge #5

    1. Thank you for your feedback Ivan, we are delighted to hear that you enjoyed it!

Comments are closed.