[is there] Life on Mars? ArtLab’s intrepid PhD researcher Jon Lockhart, packed his bags preflight, and blasted off with us on our latest mission to Mars!

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………………..The landscape, a fertile, yet unknown territory with ominous beeps, blips and crackles echoing through the corridors. The Universities Art Department hosting space suited figures, mingling with 3D scanned virtual astronauts, aliens and space donkeys! This is Life on Mars, the most excellent and far reaching ARtLab project with Year 8 students from Maiden Erlegh School, Reading, Berkshire. (http://www.maidenerleghschool.co.uk/).

Life on Mars is an ongoing project that works with a single cohort of students over several years, allowing for deeper learning experiences and creative exploration: ‘Our aim is to help the world not only understand how important it is to strive to become scientists, engineers or even Astronauts, but also the role that culture plays in all our lives.”

It was fantastic to see how all of the students were working together on a wide range of science/art activities and problems. Emma Jordan, who teaches Art at Maiden Erlegh commented on how well the students engage with the tasks and that the emphasis on scientific research underpins all creative focus.

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The mixture of sound, video, 3D scanning, robotics and electronics activities, enabled the students to articulate their ideas for a multitude of adventures such as new Mars surface buggies, imagined encounters with aliens, Mars rocks sample collectors and a techno space audio soundtrack!  A talk with an astrophysicist and help from their own awesome science teacher underpinned everything that was being created, giving it a solid grounding in science fact and a tantalising, fizzing explosion into science fiction!

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As this mission draws to a close, questions are floating around the atmosphere; Where next? What inspires us? Who inspires Us? What would it really be like to live on Mars. Could you cope? Might you have to?

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