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Designing Recreational Equipment for Microgravity

 

Grade Level: 5-8

Educational Objectives and Standards

Educational Objectives

 

National Education Standards/Benchmarks

Evaluation of Objectives

Students will use the technology design process to design playground, exercise, or recreational equipment that could be used in microgravity.

Meets:

ITEA 8, 11

Addresses:

2061 3B.1
NSES E1, E2
ISTE 4, 6

Create a labeled blueprint and model of the equipment and explain how it meets the criteria and constraints of microgravity. Based on scientists' and student feedback, evaluate what they would change and why.

Prerequisite Concepts

Resources

Gravity: Gravity is the attraction of all objects to one another due to their mass.

Activity: Have a student volunteer hold a pen or pencil in the air and then drop it. Discuss with the class what observations they made when the student volunteer let go of the pen/pencil. Have a second student jump as high as possible. Discuss with the class what observations they made when the student jumped. Then ask the students to explain why the pen/pencil and the student fell quickly to the ground.

Discuss with students what causes things on Earth to fall to the ground. Have the students share their ideas. Explain that gravity is what pulls all objects on Earth toward the center of the Earth.
Note to teacher: A formal definition of gravity is the attraction of all objects to one another due to their mass.

International Space Station (ISS):

Links:

  • International Space Station Fact Book
    http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/reference/
    factbook/index.html
    Facts and figures as well as current research that is being done on the ISS.
  • Meet Me At the Space Station-Overview
    http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/Curriculum
    .Support/Physical.Science/Aeronautics.and.Aerospace/Meet
    .Me.at.the.Station-Overview/.index.html
    Background information about the International Space Station and classroom activities for grades 4-8.
  • NASA Human Spaceflight Web site
    http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/index.html
    Current information about the International Space Station, its crew, and the research they are conducting.
  • Under Construction: The International Space Station
    http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/events/ksc/
    Archived Webcasts/chats about the preparation for the construction of the International Space Station.
  • Meet Me at the Space Statio
  • http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/video/station/
    mmats/index.html
    Tour of the International Space Station, the largest spacecraft ever built.
  • Microgravity: Microgravity is very weak gravity (about one-millionth of what is felt on Earth) caused when an object falls toward the Earth at a speed equal to that caused by gravity alone (free fall).

    Links/Activities:

  • Weightless Water Demonstration
    http://zeta.grc.nasa.gov/new/school.htm
    Do this activity to help your students understand microgravity.
  • What is Microgravity?
  • http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/Other_Groups/PAO/html/microgex.htm
    Information to help students understand microgravity.

  • Microgravity Teachers Guide
  • http://spacelink.msfc.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/
    NASA.Educational.Products/Microgravity/

    Background information and classroom activities to help students understand microgravity.

  • Toys in Microgravity
  • http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/teachers/liftoff/toys.html

    This program demonstrates the actions of children's toys in microgravity.

    Design: Design is a useful process of planning that allows people to come up with workable solutions to everyday practical problems. It includes defining a problem, generating ideas,selecting a solution, testing the solution, making the item, evaluating it, and presenting the results.

     

    Activity: Have the students design a piece of playground, exercise, or recreational equipment to be used on Earth. Start out by giving the students a few features and limits for their equipment. Examples of features are: two to three people must be able to play on the equipment at once; it must be made out of plastic; and it must be blue, green, and red. Examples of limits are time, maximum size, available materials, and space to use. Then discuss with the students what features and limits they would like to add to the list. Decide as a class three to four more features and three to four more limits to add. Have the students work in small groups to design their equipment. Once they have completed their designs, have the students present their designs to the class. In their presentations, they should discuss how they included the features and how they dealt with the limits, as well as any problems they had during the design process and how they dealt with them. Have the class provide feedback on each design, focusing on good things the group did as well as things which the group could improve.

    Scale: The size of a picture, plan, or model of a thing compared to the size of the thing itself.

    Activity: Have students do a scale drawing of themselves. First, have the students find a partner and measure the height of their partner in feet and inches. Once students know their height, explain to the students that they are going to make a scale drawing in which one foot equals one inch. It is a good idea to provide examples of this conversion. Provide students with rulers and paper to make their scale drawing. Have the students share their drawings when they are finished. Discuss any difficulties the students had with drawing to scale. Explain to students why making things to scale is so important. Note to teacher: It is best to use the metric system when measuring, but due to the difficulty of drawing things to scale we recommend using the standard system for this activity.

     

    Suggested Schedule

    Day 1 45 minutes Engage Section

    Day 2-4 1 hour 15 minutes Design and Construction Section of

    Explore

    Day 5-6 90 minutes Evaluation and Improvement Section of Explore

    Day 7 45 minutes Presentations and Tests Section of

    Explore

    Day 8 45 minutes Explain Section

    Day 9 45 minutes Prior to the Webcast/Chat

    Day 10 60 minutes During the Webcast/Chat

    Day 11 30 minutes After the Webcast/Chat

    Day 12-13 90 minutes Extend Section

    Day 14 45 minutes Evaluate Section

    Materials

    • Class set of paper for equipment design
    • Materials for constructing equipment: styrofoam, plastic containers, wooden dowels, toothpicks, and straws (or other waterproof materials?)
    • Class set of paper for blueprint for Extend Activity

    Preparation for Webcast/Chat:

    • See Chat Lesson for preparation.
    • Download the PDF file for information on how to prepare for a Webcast/chat. Pay special attention to the Equipment, Facilities, and Preparation information.

    Engage (approximately 45 minutes)

    1. Explain to the students that they are going to do work for NASA and the International Space Station (ISS). Note to teacher: If students are not familiar with the International Space Station, use the links provided in the "Prerequisite Concepts" chart.
    2. Ask the students to describe what they think would be different about living in the ISS compared to living on Earth. Note to teacher: A comparison chart could be used with one column for living in the ISS and one column for living on Earth.
    3. Questions to help discuss the differences between living in the ISS and living on Earth:
    • How do you think the amount of space in the ISS compares with the amount of space in your home?
    • What types of foods do you think the crew of the ISS eats?
    • What problems may the crew of the ISS have to deal with?
    • Do you have any of the same problems at home?
    • What are the major differences between the crew of the ISS and yourself?

    (Misconception) The major difference is that on Earth there is gravity, but in the ISS there is very weak gravity (microgravity). Many students think that there is no gravity in space. This is a common misconception. Your students can learn more about microgravity by using the links provided in the "Prerequisite Chart.".

    1. Explain to students that they are going to design and build a scale model of playground, exercise, or recreational equipment that could be used in microgravity.
    2. Ask the students to think about a piece of playground, exercise, or recreational equipment. Use the following questions to lead a discussion about what can't be done in microgravity. List the students' answers on the board. Note to teacher: The items listed for what can't be done in microgravity are constraints.
    • What can't you do in microgravity?
    • What would be different in microgravity?
    • What changes would you need to make to a piece of recreational equipment that was going to be used in microgravity?
    1. Ask the students what they would want to be able to do in microgravity. Then ask the students what they would want to be able to do when they exercise in microgravity. List the students' answers on the board in a separate column from the answers for what they can't do in microgravity. Note to teacher: The items listed for what the students want to be able to do in microgravity are criteria.
    2. Explain to the students that they just identified criteria and constraints for exercising in microgravity. Tell the students that there are criteria and constraints when designing anything.
    3. Ask the students to explain what they think it means to have criteria and constraints. Then ask the students to identify which items listed on the board are criteria and which items are constraints. Note to teacher: The students should understand that criteria are standards or requirements that the design must include. Examples of criteria for a playground on Earth may be that it must be possible for two to three people to play on at once,; it must be made out of plastic; and must be blue, green, and red. Constraints are things that limit the design. Examples of constraints are money, time, maximum size, available materials, and space to use.
    4. Write the following list of characteristics on the board. Explain that these are characteristics decided by NASA scientists. Note to teacher: Do not write "criteria" or "constraint" next to each characteristic. This information is only for you.
    • The equipment must work in microgravity. (criteria) Note to teacher: This can be tested by placing the equipment in water and turning the equipment upside down.
    • The equipment must be designed and constructed in three class periods. (constraint)
    • The materials that may be used are styrofoam, plastic containers, wooden dowels, toothpicks, and straws. (constraint) Note to teacher: You may want to have students bring in other waterproof materials.
    • The equipment must be designed and built so that no parts fly around during use. (criteria)
    • The equipment must be able to be used by one to three people at the same time. (criteria) Note to teacher: A person can be represented by using a popsicle stick with arms made out of pipecleaners.
    • The equipment must have a safety strap so that the "person" is attached to the equipment at all times. (criteria)
    • The equipment must work some of the "person's" muscles. (criteria)
    • The equipment must be designed and built so that the "person" using the equipment is always safe. (criteria)
    • The scale model of the equipment must be 18 cm in diameter and 22 cm in length. (constraint) Note to teacher: These measurements are a 1-25 ratio. The measurements are from the Unity module of the ISS which is 457 cm in diameter and 549 cm in length.

    Extension: Depending on grade level, the students could be given the dimensions of the International Space Station and asked to determine the measurements for a scale model that is :one twenty-fifth the size of a portion of the ISS.

    1. Ask the students to read the list of characteristics. Decide as a class which characteristics are criteria and which are constraints.
    2. Once the students have categorized the characteristics, write the word "criteria" or "constraint" next to each one. Leave the characteristics on the board for students to refer to later. Note to teacher: If you have time, rewrite the characteristics so there is one list of criteria and a separate list of constraints.
    3. Explain to students that NASA would like their input on designing this equipment. Ask the students to brainstorm criteria and constraints that they would like to have for their equipment and why they would include these criteria and constraints. Explain to the students that the criteria and constraints all have to be able to be tested in some way. List the students' criteria and constraints on the board.
    4. From this list, decide two to three criteria and two to three constraints that all of the students will have to include on their equipment. Add these to the list of criteria and constraints that the NASA scientists gave. Note to teacher: The number of criteria and constraints that the students decide on for the equipment can be modified.
    5. Explain to the students that NASA has hired you as the students' supervisor during this design and construction process. Explain that the NASA scientists are very busy and have asked that all questions during this process be directed to the supervisor.
    Explore

    Design and Construction (approximately 1hour and 15 minutes)

    Note to teacher: During the design and construction of the equipment, the students can participate in Webchats/casts through NASA Quest and ask questions of scientists about designing for microgravity. They may find it helpful to ask questions about the challenges of designing for microgravity and how these challenges have been overcome.

    1. Have the students work in small groups to brainstorm ideas for the design of their equipment. Encourage the students to respect each person's opinion.
    2. Once the students have chosen an idea or combination of ideas to use for their design, they should make a blueprint of their design. Their design should include the materials that students will use to build the model. Their design should also have labels that show how each criterion and constraint will be met in their equipment. The students should explain the reasoning behind their design and how it meets the criteria and constraints. This explanation can be written on their design or done verbally. Note to teacher: The students should explain how their design meets all of the criteria and constraints. Two that are difficult to explain are how the equipment addresses microgravity and what activities will be done on the equipment to work the person's muscles.
    3. Once this design is complete, the design should be presented to the supervisor/teacher.
    4. The supervisor/teacher should review the design and suggest any changes that he/she thinks are needed.
    5. Once the design has been approved, the students can begin constructing the equipment, being sure to keep the criteria and constraints in mind.
    6. When the students finish constructing their equipment, have the students name it.

    Extensions: Depending on grade level and time available, the students could make a brochure that explains the piece of equipment that they designed and built.

    Evaluations and Improvements (approximately 90 minutes)

    1. Once the students have completed their equipment, pair up two groups of students. Have the two groups switch their blueprint and model and evaluate each other's project so far.
    2. In this evaluation process, the groups should focus on whether the equipment is constructed as it was designed, since this is what the supervisor approved. They should also check to make sure that all criteria are included, and that the equipment is being built within the constraints specified. If the correct features are not included or if they have not stayed within the constraints, the supervisor should be notified.
    3. Once the groups have had time to evaluate another group's equipment, have the two groups share their evaluations with each other.
    4. Once the groups have shared their evaluations, discuss as a class what the students learned from the evaluation. Lead a discussion using the following questions:
    • What did you think of your equipment before sharing with the other group?
    • Did your opinion of your equipment change after listening to the other group's evaluation?
    • Do you see things that you could improve about your equipment? Explain.
    1. Have the students work in their own groups to make any modifications or improvements needed after being evaluated by a group of peers. Note to teacher: Limit the time which students have to modify or improve their equipment.

    Presentations and Tests (approximately 45 minutes)

    1. After making improvements, the students should be ready to test their equipment.
    2. Have all students or groups of students explain their equipment to the class. They should include the name of the equipment, what features they included on their equipment, why they included the features, what problems they had to solve during the design process, and how they solved the problems.
    3. After a group presents its equipment, have the students test the equipment to make sure it will work in microgravity. Have the students turn their equipment upside down and then right side up. No pieces should fall off of the equipment. Next, put the equipment under water. The equipment should work under water. Note to teacher: Depending on grade level, the students can test their own equipment, a student from another group can test the equipment, or you can test the equipment.

    Explain (approximately 45 minutes)

    1. Have the students explain the steps they went through to design their equipment. Ask the students if they think scientists follow similar steps.
    2. After the students have shared their ideas, explain that the students followed a process very similar to that which scientists use. Explain that the basic design process includes: defining a problem, identifying criteria and constraints, generating ideas, selecting a solution, testing the solution(s), making the item, evaluating it, improving the design, and presenting the results.
    3. Discuss the following questions. Be sure to have the students explain the reasoning behind their answers:
    • What did you think about when trying to design for microgravity?
    • Which designs worked when tested in "microgravity?" Why did they work?
    • Which designs did not work when tested in "microgravity?" Why did they not work?
    • What went well during the design of your equipment?
    • What problems did you encounter during the design process?
    • How well did your equipment meet the guidelines set up by the class and by the supervisor?
    • How could your equipment be improved?
    • Was there more than one solution to the problem?

    (Misconception) Students often do not understand that all designs can be improved and that there are multiple solutions to a problem. The questions listed above should facilitate a discussion to help students deal with this misconception.

    1. Explain to students that when scientists design things, the designs may appear to be perfect, but they can always be improved. Scientists always model their design, test the design, evaluate the design, and then change it to make it better. There is no perfect design for anything; all designs can be improved.
    2. Have the students do a self-evaluation of their equipment. This self-evaluation can be written or done verbally. Have the students discuss what they would change about their design and why they would change these things.
    3. Ask the students if they feel that their equipment is good enough to be used on the International Space Station. Explain to the students that during the Webcasts/chats they can discuss their designs with scientists and learn how they could improve their designs even more.

    Prior to the Webcast/Chat: (approximately 45 minutes)

    Have the students become knowledgeable about the scientists they will be talking to by reading their bios. Then discuss with the students the main focus for the Webcast/chat. This can be found on the Event Page. The Webcasts/chats will focus on engineering design for microgravity. The students should be encouraged to ask scientists specific questions about the designs for their equipment and whether they would work in microgravity.

    See NASA Occupations Chat Lesson for specific information on how to prepare students for the Webcast/chat.

    During the Webcast/Chat: (60 minutes)

    Have students take notes on what special criteria and constraints have to be taken into account when designing equipment for microgravity.

    See NASA Occupations Chat Lesson for specific information on participating in the Webcast or chat and how to keep your students engaged during the Webcast/chat.

    After the Webcast/Chat: (approximately 30 minutes)

    Discuss with students the information included in the Webcast/chat.

    Lead a discussion using the following questions:

    • What did you learn about designing for microgravity?
    • What can you not do when designing for microgravity?
    • What would you change about your design based on the feedback from scientists?
    • Why would you change these things?
    • What methods do scientists use to deal with the constraints?
    • When designing and making your equipment, did you have any of the same problems that the scientists do?
    • What do scientists do when they have a problem?

    Note to teacher: Modify discussion questions based on information discussed during Webcast/chat.

    See NASA Occupations Chat Lesson for specific information on how to facilitate a follow-up discussion after a Webcast/chat.

    Extension: After getting feedback from scientists, students could modify their design to make it better for use in microgravity.

    Extend (approximately 90 minutes)

    1. Discuss with students what common things they think scientists would want in the International Space Station. List student ideas on the board.
    2. Ask the students which of the items listed would not have to be modified for microgravity. Mark these items off the list.
    3. Have the students review the list of items that is left on the board.
    4. Explain to them that they are going to choose one of these items listed and modify or design a new one that has the same purpose as the original item.
    5. Have the students break up into pairs or small groups. In these groups, the students should choose the item they will modify for microgravity.
    6. Have the students brainstorm ways to modify (or redesign) the item for microgravity and then choose the modification (or design?) they think will work best.
    7. Have the students make a blueprint of their design. The blueprint should include the materials the students would use, an explanation of why they modified the item the way they did, and why they think the design will work in microgravity.

    Evaluate (approximately 45 minutes)

    1. Evaluate the playground, exercise, or recreational equipment that the students designed and constructed. Focus on the reasoning behind the blueprint and model. Take into account how well the design met the criteria and constraints as well as the students' self-evaluation of why or why not the design would work in microgravity.
    2. Once the students have developed their blueprint, have them share their blueprint with another group or with the entire class. The other group or class should provide feedback on the blueprint, focusing on whether this design will work in microgravity and how the design could be improved.
    3. Extension: Depending on grade level and time available, the students could then modify their designs based on the feedback from their classmates.

    4. Evaluate the blueprint from the Extend activity. Focus on the reasoning behind the blueprint and how the students modified the item for microgravity.

     

     

     

     
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