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Back to Teacher Overview Outline

Classroom Activity

Session 1
Introduce your students to the unique qualities of the space shuttle orbiter. If possible, use a video clip, Web site, or other source that shows its reentry and landing. The "Space Basics" video is an excellent source. To order this video, click on the link, then Search in the Catalog and type in "Space Basics" (with the quotation marks). Be sure the students understand the reasoning behind the design of the orbiter and its unusual landing style. Go over the Student Reading found in the Student Handout section.

Challenge students with the key questions and discuss:

  • Why does the orbiter reenter the atmosphere at such a high velocity?
  • Why is it necessary for the orbiter to reenter the atmosphere at such a steep angle of attack?
  • What strategies does the orbiter take to slow down before landing?
  • Does glide slope affect the speed of the glider?

    Again using the Student Reading, have them discuss and compare some of the speeds and distances of the space shuttle to values that are more familiar to our lifestyles. Also review the Vocabulary List.

    Session 2
    Go over the necessary prerequisite math knowledge with students. Use the Math Worksheet, if appropriate.

    If time allows, explain to students the nature of the experiment with the shuttle glider so they know what to expect in the next two days. Show students a completed shuttle glider model and give them a sneak peek of the landing site.

    Session 3
    Assign students into teams of 3-4 people. Determine team names or numbers. Go over Team Members and their Roles.

    Go over Space Shuttle Glider Activity - Student Information and Teacher Information

    Go over Instructions for Building the Space Shuttle Glider.
    Give students necessary materials (glider kit, glue, cellophane tape, paper clips, etc.) and the instruction sheet to build their gliders. Be sure each student has their name on their own glider, and remind them to puncture holes in the glider, before they glue or tape it together.

    If students finish early, have them help you set up other landing sites around the room for Session 4's landings. (fishing line, sticks, masking tape)

    Session 4
    Go over Instructions for Landing Procedures.
    Perform a trial run for your students so that they can see how the glider will "fly" on the fishing line. Try not to reveal the technique for being able to successfully land the glider. You may want to get a student to volunteer to be a "test pilot" for the first initial flight test.

    Assign groups of 3-4 people. Hand out the Landing Data Collection Sheets (one per student) and have each student write their name in the Pilot box. Go over How to Compute Flight Time. Make other materials (tape measure, rulers, stop watches, calculators, etc.) available and allow them to perform their landings.

    Session 5
    Finish up Landings.

    Go over How to Compute Glide Slope and How to Compute Average Speed. Hand out Table for Determining Glide Slope.

    Session 6
    Go over Purpose of Scatter Plot and How to Create a Scatter Plot.

    Hand out graph paper to allow each student to make their own scatter plot. Make a large size graph and have each student plot their own point onto the graph. Place glide slope measurements on the x-axis and speed measurements on the y-axis.

    Session 7
    Have each team of students share and discuss their group's results.

  • What did your group enjoy about this activity?
  • What did your group find difficult about this activity?
  • Name 2-3 things your group learned about the space shuttle that you did not know before.
  • What were your glide slope angles? How did it affect the landings of the glider?

    Discuss the results of the group as seen on the scatter plot. Is there a positive, a negative or no correlation between the two measurements? Have a student draw a line of best fit. Using this line, see if the students can:

  • predict the speed of the glider given a glide slope.
  • predict the glide slope given the speed of the glider.

    If students finish early, change the flight distance (fishing line) either shorter or longer, or move the runway, either towards the high end or towards the "control stick", to see if students can adjust the flight of the glider and still land successfully.

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