Mission to Mars Work Experience - Software Cornwall

Award Winning Software Challenge

Mission to Mars at Heartlands in 2019

Software Cornwall, with the support of its members, runs two versions of the ‘Mission to Mars’, work experience activity. One is a week-long structured activity which is complemented by a two day accelerated version.  The programs invite budding software developers aged 14 to 24 to code the Mars rover robots. The rovers only operate using the code uploaded to them. It is this code that the week revolves around. It is up to the software developers to create this code so that the rovers operate to the specifications supplied to them.

The Mission to Mars work experience programme is designed to provide a realistic experience of being a software developer. Working in teams, participants are supported in completing a set of incrementally difficult tasks, each built upon the abilities of the robots. Industry professionals join us throughout the week to coach participants, helping to develop problem-solving skills write quality software and to share their work experiences and careers.

During the Mission applicants will:

  • Develop solutions using C++ and Raspberry PI for Arduino based hardware.
  • Work as part of a close-knit team.
  • Create software using an Agile development process.
  • Test solutions before deploying onto the rovers.
  • Present their product to potential ‘investors’ and VIPs.

Mission to Mars Objective

A key objective of Software Cornwall is to support young people into careers in software engineering. Our members have been delighted, but overwhelmed, by requests for work experience. Due to the nature of the industry, it is difficult to provide an engaging and hands-on work experience for placement students meaning places are in short supply. To alleviate this problem, companies have decided to collaborate and volunteer their time and developers to help run a work experience week for budding developers.

Mission to Mars is part of Software Cornwall’s education outreach program, designed to stimulate the computing industry from the ground up. In 2017, Cornwall was ranked in the top three tech clusters for growth, for the third year running but ranked poorly for computing subject uptake in further education. To support future growth, we are investing in learners from a young age, which is hoped to increase the pool of homegrown talent for the wider tech industry within the county in years to come.

2021 Update

The lockdown restrictions and cancellation of student visits out of school necessitated a reboot of the Mission to Mars. We now offer a complete online at home (or from school) version. This not only enables students to do exactly the same tasks and experience as normal but also to emulate how software businesses do develop code remotely but still within a team. We have also added additional tasks and developed the Mission parameters further giving the students an even greater practical experience in software development, communication and team work.

As we look forward to better times the lessons we have learnt from running the virtual experience will add a new dimension to Mission to Mars. It will now be possible for remote students to participate with the live experience. It will require teams of remote developers working together but with the added experience of seeing and hearing what is happening live. All the successes and failures of those teams and of course them observing yours!

Credly Digital Badges

As proof of learning and engaging with out industry Software Cornwall rewards participants of the work experiences with a digital badge. Millions of these badges have been awarded via the Credly system around the world as a way of demonstrating in job interviews and on a CV completion of a piece training. The Mission to Mars badge is awarded to those completing the Mission and participating in the team work necessary.

Missions Planned for 2021/2022

October 25th – 29th 2021 Half Term Mission to Mars. Mission completed.

July 18th – 22nd 2022 Mission to Mars Year 10 Work Experience at FibreHub, Pool. Applications open.



Upcoming and Recent Missions



Mission to Mars October Half Term 2021

Work Experience October 2021

Software Cornwall, with the help of their members, are hosting and supporting their annual work experience project week from 25th – 29th October 2021. This work experience week will see up to 16 students work for a week as a software engineering team on a development project alongside industry professionals….

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Mission to Mars July 18th – 22nd 2022

Work experience July 2022

Software Cornwall, with the help of their members, are hosting and supporting their annual work experience project week from 18th – 22nd July 2022. This work experience week will see up to 30 students work for a week as a software engineering team on a development project alongside industry professionals….

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Easter Virtual Work Experience

Rover driving across monitor during a work experience

Easter 2021 Virtual Mission to Mars Work experiences this year are all in rather a muddle. Not all schools are participating and school time is also at a premium. But Software Cornwall are opening another Virtual Mission to Mars work experience. We ran three successful Missions last year. Over 50…

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Mission to Mars July 12th – 16th 2021

Mission to Mars July 12th 2021

Software Cornwall, with the help of their members, are hosting and supporting their annual work experience project week from 12th – 16th July 2021. This work experience week will see up to 30 students work for a week as a software engineering team on a development project alongside industry professionals….

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Latest Mission to Mars News



First of Three Summer Work Experiences

Table top scrum tennis game

This June and July will see around 48 students attend three Mission to Mars work experiences. The first just completed was for Year 1 & 2 students from Cornwall College St Austell. The students are taking the BTEC National Foundation Diploma in Information Technology. The work experience provided them with…

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Mars Rovers with Microbits or Arduino

New Mission to Mars rovers

First Outing for Mission to Mars Rovers Truro High School for Girls were the first students to utilise Software Cornwall’s new Martian Rovers. Having a purpose built circuit board to improve robustness and ease of construction these rovers have one significant upgrade over their predecessors. These can utilise either an…

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Mission to Mars VWEX

Line drawing of work experience rover

Virtual Work Experiences (VWEX) are being trialled in west Cornwall during December 2020 and March 2021. These are being organised through Speakers4Schools via the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership. The 2020 lockdown had all schools cancelling in situe work experience but Software Cornwall took the Mission to…

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Mission to Mars – Virtual Work Experience

Rover driving across monitor during a work experience

Mission to Mars at Home July 2020 The Mission to Mars Work Experience for students has been running since 2014. As an award winning education initiative there has already been recognition that Software Cornwall offers a valuable workplace encounter. At the beginning of 2020 schools were very quick to cancel…

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Mission to Mars reflections from Team E

This post was contributed by Team E, a startup team from the 2018 Mission to Mars Work Experience program. Hi! We’re Abby McAuliffe, Laurie Harbord, Cam Loughlin and Kyle Doody. We participated in the recent Mission To Mars Work Experience (9th – 13th July), hosted at Heartlands in Pool, and loved…

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Mission to Mars Code School : Tech Destination Cornwall #technation

Mission to Mars Code School Software Cornwall, with the support of its members, run unique ‘Mission to Mars’ week-long work experiences for budding software entrepreneurs.  The programme designed to provide a realistic experience of being a software developer in a tech start-up environment. Working in teams, participants are supported in…

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