Robots, rovers and drones were star attractions at Sulphur Point as locals watched Nasa scientists collect data to help them better understand the universe.

Last week a team from Nasa, the US Government agency responsible for science and technology related to air and space, arrived in Rotorua to study the geological and geochemical features of the area.

Yesterday members of the team, along with scientists from across New Zealand and Australia, and those involved with Spaceward Bound, a collaborative education and research programme, gathered at Sulphur Point to collect data.

Rovers are like a small car with a remote control, which take samples and temperatures.

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Australian scientist Dr Ken Silburn said one of the purposes was to examine life that lived in very rugged and harsh terrain, which could be an example of life elsewhere, including on Mars.

He said the exercise was also about raising awareness around astrobiology and getting people, especially children, interested in space and space travel.

Scientists gave children, and eager parents, turns at playing with the rovers and drones while explaining how they worked.

Local Ramila Bhula said she couldn't understand how something so small could hold so much information.

"They're tiny. They look like a kid's toy, something that you might buy at a toy store. Who would've thought."

AUT University professor Steve Pointing, who has worked for Nasa for more than 12 years, said it was great to see so many people come along.

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"There's been a few kids who were a bit reluctant at the start, but before you know it there's that spark of interest in their eyes and then they're hooked - that's what we want to see. "If every child here today goes home to tell mum or dad about their new found interest in science, or that they want to take science as a subject at school, then I'll be a happy chappy," he said.

For more information visit www.spacewardbound.astrobiology.kiwi/spaceward-bound-new-zealand.