MSSL Scientist on 2006 Martian Clock Challenge judging panel

Dr Tracey Poole - a gamma-ray burst specialist from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, was one of two space scientists chosen to sit on the judging panels for the 2006 Martian Clock Challenge. Each panel consisted of a space scientist, a mechanical clock expert, and an electronics expert.

The Martian Clock Challenge is a national competition for schools, organised by the Young Engineers and the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and sponsored by Seiko. Participants are required to design a timepiece that can accurately tell the time on Mars - a Martian day being 24 hrs and 39.6 minutes long. The device could be either a sundial, a mechanical, or electronic clock.
The competition is divided into three stages. After registering their entry, entrants must prepare a portfolio consisting of research into the problem and a design solution. This requires research into the relative merits of using each of the specified timekeepers on Mars.

Entrants then had to explain the scientific principles behind each type, identify how they could be used, and list the strengths and weaknesses of each type, then contrast the differences in the use of each approach on Mars and its use on Earth

The finalist for the challenge were notified of their success last November, and began constructing their models ready for the finals on the 13th March 2006, held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

The competition was divided into two age groups: year groups 6-9 and 10-13. Two prizes were awarded for each category:

• The application of science and technology to produce the best design and construction

• The most thorough research of the relative merits of different approaches to timekeeping

Dr Poole said “ The day was really interesting. It was fascinating to see how each team
had tackled the problem of timekeeping on Mars.” And added that “All the teams were very confident and had worked together well. The standard of research and work that had gone into the project was extremely high.”

Winners of the 2006 Martian Clock Challenge

Further information can be found at the Young Engineers web site:


MdN. 23 March 2006


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This page last modified 14 October, 2005 by Martin de la Nougerede


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