Mars Base Camp

The race to land humans on Mars is on! The 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge will explore sending a mission to Mars with the activity, Mars Base Camp. Developed by Google and Virginia Cooperative Extension, Mars Base Camp is a collection of activities that teaches kids ages 8-14 STEM skills like mechanical engineering, physics, computer science, and agriculture.

Insight from Mars, the online portion of the 2020 STEM Challenge, is now available! Get started to learn how to code an animated story with Scratch.

Mars Base Camp logo

How to Participate

Below are a few ways to ensure young people everywhere can participate in the 2020 STEM Challenge:

  • Online Activity: Youth can participate with Insight from Mars, the online portion of the 2020 STEM Challenge.
  • Educator Kit: Includes materials for 12 youth to participate in the offline activities at the same time. Kits can be used in spaces where physical distancing can be followed.
  • Family-sized Kit: Includes materials for 1-4 youth to participate in the offline activities at the same time from inside the home.

Find More STEM Activities on 4‑H at Home

Looking for STEM activities to do at home? Visit 4‑H at Home for hundreds of free learning activities for the whole family!

4‑H STEM Challenge

We know you may have questions about the name change from 4‑H National Youth Science Day (4‑H NYSD) to 4‑H STEM Challenge or what this year’s challenge is all about, and we’re here to answer them!

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions below, as well as a downloadable one pager with more explanation on the name change that you can print and share with others.


Why is National Youth Science Day (NYSD) changing to 4‑H STEM Challenge?

National 4‑H Council consulted with Extension professionals, volunteers, 4‑H’ers and partners on ways to improve the NYSD experience. One of the most important things we heard is that National Youth Science Day has evolved to explore topics beyond just science, and that you’re using challenge kits throughout the year in 4‑H clubs, classrooms, camps and after school settings nationwide.

That’s why we’re excited to roll out a new name: the 4‑H STEM Challenge. It’s a name that better reflects the spirit of the program and allows us to continue making improvements that enable you to reach more kids, plan events more easily and showcase the impact of your STEM programs year-round.

What else is changing?

Aside from continual improvements to enhance the user experience, the name is the most important change you’ll notice to the program this year. Everything you loved about National Youth Science Day will carry forward to the 4‑H STEM Challenge.

What is this year’s challenge theme?

The 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge will explore the theme of sending a manned mission to Mars. The challenge activities will cover many aspects of such a mission – landing on Mars, exploring the surface of the planet and supporting human life on Mars. Kids will learn concepts ranging from computer science to geology, space agriculture, and more!

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about this year’s challenge and be the first to know when kits go on sale!

Who is developing this year’s 4‑H STEM Challenge?

National 4‑H Council has selected Virginia Cooperative Extension to be our partner in developing the 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge. As authors of peer-reviewed curricula on the topic of Mars exploration and frequent collaborators with NASA, the team from Virginia Tech and Virginia State University is an ideal partner to develop the 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge. Google is the Signature Partner for the 2020 STEM Challenge and will support Virginia Cooperative Extension and National 4‑H Council in the development of the challenge activities.

How will the 4‑H STEM Challenge be showcased across the country?

Yes! October is officially 4‑H STEM Month. Of course, you may complete the 4‑H STEM Challenge any time of the year– and we encourage you to do so – but 4‑H STEM Month allows kids and educators across the country to create a national moment to shine a spotlight on 4‑H STEM.

How do I participate in 4‑H STEM Month?

Think of the 4‑H STEM Challenge and 4‑H STEM Month as the ultimate way to grow the reach of 4‑H in your community, while simultaneously introducing kids to fun STEM topics. Throughout the month, educators, volunteers and teen leaders will plan events, engage community partners, pitch local media and share their stories to create a national movement that helps grow the footprint of 4‑H STEM.

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about 4‑H STEM Month and ways to get involved.

What activities are included in the Mars Base Camp challenge?

Mars Base Camp will explore sending a mission to Mars and what it takes to sustain human life in space. Both educator and family-sized kits will include four activities:

  • Landing Zone Surveyor is an unplugged activity where kids will attempt to land on Mars and discover features that are important for setting up a base camp.
  • Red Planet Odyssey is an unplugged activity where kids will use engineering skills to build a vehicle that can explore the surface of Mars.
  • Crop Curiosity is an unplugged activity where kids will learn about biology, environmental science, and agriculture to grow nutritionally efficient food on Mars.
  • Insight from Mars is an activity that can be done unplugged or online that teaches kids to code and share a discovery they made on Mars using CS First and Scratch.

4‑H STEM Challenge One Pager


Download youth and facilitator guides and social media graphics in English and Spanish below. Be sure to check back soon for more Mars Base Camp resources.

Facilitators, educators, and parents can prepare for this year’s STEM Challenge by attending one of the training webinars below. Learn more about the Mars Base Camp kit and how to adapt activities to accommodate for both in-person and virtual learning.

STEM Challenge Overview for Educators + Kit Unboxing

Get ready to head to Mars Basecamp with the 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge unboxing webinar. During this webinar we will unbox the 2020 Mars Basecamp Kit, talk about how the kit works, and introduce marketing resources. We also will talk about how to reach audiences with the kit and introduce new diverse ways to use the kit with the new landscape that we will encounter this fall.


Watch Now

Creating and Adapting Programming for Virtual and Hybrid Delivery

With COVID 19 changing how we deliver programs, one of the biggest question that is asked is how to do I deliver these new programs virtually or in a hybrid approach? This session will focus on learning about different ways to develop programs virtually, adapting programs to meet the needs of the audience both virtually and hybrid, and evaluating the learning experiences.

When: September 10, 1 PM ET

Watch Now

STEM Challenge Overview for Teens + Kit Unboxing

Prepare to head to Mars Basecamp with the 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge unboxing webinar. Learn about what's in the kit and how to facilitate the activities with 4‑H youth in this training dedicated to our 4‑H teen leaders.

Prepare to head to Mars Basecamp with the 2020 4‑H STEM Challenge unboxing webinar. Learn about what's in the kit and how to facilitate the activities with 4‑H youth in this training dedicated to our 4‑H teen leaders.

Visit Online

Quick Activity Instructional Videos

Mars Base Camp Overview

Landing Zone Surveyor

Red Planet Odyssey Part 1

Red Planet Odyssey Part 2

Crop Curiosity

Past Challenges

4‑H STEM Challenge, formerly known as 4‑H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) is the premier national rallying event for year-round 4‑H science programming, bringing together youth, volunteers and educators from all over the country to complete hands-on STEM activities.

2019: Game Changers

Designed by Google and West Virginia Extension service, Game Changers teaches kids ages 8-14 how to use computer science (CS) to create games, solve problems and engage with topics they’re passionate about.

2018: Code Your World

Developed by Google and West Virginia University Extension Service, Code Your World includes a computer-based activity on Google’s CS First platform and three unplugged activities that bring coding to life through games and interaction.

2017: Incredible Wearables

Developed by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Incredible Wearables is a fun way for kids to build wearable fitness trackers.

2016: Drone Discovery

Drone Discovery was developed by Cornell University Cooperative Extension. It’s a hands-on engineering design challenge that explores the science behind drones and how they are being used to solve real world problems.

2015: Motion Commotion

Developed by Oregon State University Cooperative Extension, Motion Commotion is a two-part experiment that investigates the physical and human factors of motion using toy cars to simulate a speeding car collision and distracted driving.

2014: Rockets to the Rescue

The University of Arizona developed Rockets to the Rescue, which explores the field of aerospace engineering. Youth learn engineering concepts, develop math skills, learn about nutrition and help solve a relevant, global issue.

2013: 4‑H Maps & Apps

With 4‑H Maps & Apps, young people become geospatial thinkers as they design and map their ideal park, use GIS mapping to solve community problems and contribute data about their community to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

2012: Eco-Bot Challenge

In the 4‑H Eco-Bot Challenge, youth test the interaction between the Eco-Bot’s environmental engineering design features and various control surface configurations to determine the most effective environmental clean-up solution for a simulated toxic spill.

2011: Wired for Wind

Wired for Wind explores how to engineer renewable energy technologies and the positive impact that they can have in communities across the country and the world.

2010: 4‑H2O

4‑H2O is designed to engage youth in asking the question: Why is water quality important and why is it important to understand it now?

2009: Biofuel Blast

Biofuel Blast explores the production of the biofuel ethanol.

2008: Helpful Hydrogels

In Helpful Hydrogels, youth explore a new superabsorbent polymer – called hydrogel – that can help with water conservation right in our own backyards.