A Collaborative Activity
The goal of this challenge is to engage students in a collaborative experience
that parallels some of the research and design activities conducted by
engineers at NASA. This challenge will:
How to conduct Problem Based Learning
- Engage students in critical thinking,
research and problem solving.
- Arouse students' interest in science, technology, engineering
- Facilitate cooperative learning in the classroom.
Since this is a collaborative challenge, students should work as a team
on the activity. We suggest two team alternatives:
- Integrated teams consisting of four or more students—each
participant assigned to a particular role listed below. Each team submits
a final design.
- Focus teams investigating from the perpective of one
of the four roles listed below. The final design combines the findings
from all the teams.
Team work is very important for success in any endeavour
and is used extensively on all levels of NASA projects. Here are some
suggested roles that can be selected by student focus teams or individual
members of an integrated team:
- Astrophysicists study objects in the universe
including galaxies, stars, planets, moons, asteroids, meteoroids and
comets to understand what they are made of, their surface features,
their histories and how they were formed. They spend most of their time
in laboratories and offices looking at information gathered by instruments
such as telescopes, sensors and probes, deciding what information means
and writing papers and reports about what they find.
- Atmospheric Scientists study the atmosphere--the
blanket of air covering the Earth. Atmospheric scientists, commonly
called meteorologists, study the atmosphere's physical characteristics,
motions, and processes, and the way it affects the rest of our environment.
The best known application of this knowledge is in forecasting the weather.
However, weather information and meteorological research are also applied
in air-pollution control, agriculture, air and sea transportation, defense,
and the study of trends in Earth's climate such as global warming, droughts,
or ozone depletion.
- Biologists study living organisms and their relationship
to their environment. They usually work in research and development.
Some conduct basic research to advance knowledge of living organisms,
including viruses, bacteria, and other infectious agents. Past research
has resulted in the development of vaccines, medicines, and treatments
for cancer andother diseases.
- Geologists study the composition,
structure, and other physical aspects of the Earth. By using sophisticated
instruments they analyze the Earth and water. They also study the Earth's
geologic past and present in order to make predictions about its future.
For example, they may study the Earth's movements to try to predict
when and where the next earthquake or volcano will occur and the probable
impact on surrounding areas to minimize the damage. Many geologists
are involved in the search for oil and gas, while others work closely
with environmental scientists in preserving and cleaning up the environment.
Students should research the questions that are appropriate for their
grade level. Check the standards that
align with these concepts.
In this challenge students investigate some key questions
associated with designing a planet habitable to humans and what kind
of life might exist in places that are not habitable for humans.
- What are the characteristics that make a planet habitable
- Is Mars habitable for humans? Why or why not?
- What kind of life-form might exist on Mars?
Detailed questions for each role
Submissions will be done in two phases. Student who wish to have their
preliminary designs reviewed may submit them
by Week 4. Final design should be submitted
in time to be received by Week 6. We may not be able to include any designs
received after Week 6. Submissions should include:
- Drawing or picture of the martian
- Specific characteristics of the martian
- Design explanations (how does the design answer the questions
We can accept only TWO submissions from each class. This
is to allow the NASA experts sufficient time to review the designs that
are submitted. We know that students work very hard on these projects,
and we don't want anyone's project to be left out because we ran out of
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