Teacher Steven Dworetzky's middle-school classroom buzzed with activity--temporarily converted to a miniature version of the Mars mission control center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in nearby Pasadena, Calif.

Teams of teens huddled over computers, downloading the latest images from the red planet, while other students assembled and programmed a model of one of the Mars rovers using Lego blocks and other materials.

Along with dozens of other students at Thomas Starr King Middle School, they're creating a replica of the Martian landscape with their own miniature, camera-equipped rover to

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