Dare Mighty Things!

You may have seen this news article from the Guardian about the hidden message in the Perseverance parachute. As I am teaching a “Coding and Society” class to upper school students right now, I though we could use this as a real world example of decoding patterns.

The image of the parachute was capture during the descent.

I projected the image of the parachute on the whiteboard, and we drew the lines to isolate each color.

We built a spreadsheet to input the colors of each band and formulas to convert the color into a sequence of 0s and 1s, then convert those to 10 digit binary numbers, then the binary number to a decimal, and finally used the ASCII (pronounced “Ask-ey”) table to convert to a letter. A student in the class figured out that you can use the formula =char() to convert the number for you so you don’t have to use the table.

Students had the article, my slides, my spreadsheet, the internet, the answer. This wasn’t a test, but a fun way to work through how you could write an algorithm that goes from a color input to a text output. Feel free to make a copy of the spreadsheet and do the same with your students!

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