Students asked to 'Meet the Mars Challenge'

May 24, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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MARS — In a not so distant future, explorers from Earth will find themselves trying to colonize the planet Mars.

Facing a lot of unknowns, they must determine what the largest challenges to sustaining life will be, and then find solutions to those problems.

Though it may seem far-fetched, that concept will be on display next week during Mars New Year Exploration and Celebration Days, as students from around the region participate in the Meet the Mars Challenge science fair contest.

A STEAM-focued event, students in grades 2 through 8 will be prompted to not only consider potential issues with colonizing the planet, but also solving them. The categories for areas of need — called MARS — include Mechanical, such as transportation, energy, atmosphere control and engineering; Agricultural, including biology, food, water and soil; Relationship, including communications, art, recreation, psychology, government, religion and education; and Survival, which includes medical, waste management, food storage and fitness.

The challenge is open to individuals or groups in second through eighth grade. Missy Gralish, Mars New Year communications chairwoman, said previous versions of the contest were for older kids, but with the timing of the year coinciding with proms and graduations, this year the focus is on younger learners.

The contest is open to students from any area. Gralish said currently there are nearly 50 people participating from 11 different school districts and parochial schools, as well as some home-schooled students. Participants are coming from as far away as Arlington County, Virginia.

The projects will be set up throughout the weekend at the Mars Masonic Hall on East Railroad Street for visitors to see. Judging taking place Sunday. Gralish said judges will come from various backgrounds, including financial, education, planning and development and various infrastructure disciplines.

Winners will be announced at 2 p.m. Sunday on the main stage, with $12,000 in awards being given out via a donation from the FirstEnergy Foundation.

Applications to participate will be accepted until Friday evening. For more information on how to apply and contest rules, visit

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.