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Robotic Spacecraft: Far-Ranging Robots
Classrooms


The hands-on nature of robotics and engineering activities are naturally enticing to many students, of both sexes. Research reveals that most people have misconceptions over the term "engineering" and believe that engineers spend all of their time alone doing math problems. But engineering is in fact creative, involves lots of teamwork and collaboration, and is making a real difference in people's lives. For more information about robotic exploration and engineering, check out this month's Background information.

In addition to the activities, remember to check out Educational Resources for video, podcasts and more!

Be sure to submit photographs, artwork, music, or words of students enjoying these activities to Share Your Stories.

Activities

Grades K-4
The concept of planetary exploration is not well understood by students at this age, who may have misconceptions about the distances, planetary characteristics, technological limitations, and more. Activities that use the students' innate curiosity and willingness to experiment with technology are great for beginning to expose them to design and engineering challenges. (Science Education Standards)

Activity Description
Design Challenge: How do you keep things from getting too hot? Part of the "Staying Cool" education unit which investigates how MESSENGER can study Mercury without being damaged by the harsh high-temperature, high-radiation environment; in this activity, students design, build and test a model of MESSENGER and a sunshade.
Rockets This NASA educator's guide has a variety of hands-on activities about rockets -- a fundamental part of any planetary mission-- that can be used with older students, but are also easily grasped by elementary students.
Egg Drop Lander Students design a package to contain and successfully land a raw egg, unbroken from a fall to the ground. While the calculations suggested in this description may be beyond young students, the challenges of designing a successful egg drop lander are appropriate for all ages.


Grades 5-8
As students become familiar with the ongoing exploration in our solar system, they are able to explore the relationship between technology and science, and create and test new designs to meet the challenges posed by various planetary environments. (Science Education Standards)

Activity Description
Mission Design Mission Design is intended to provide an overarching framework for discussing exploration in general. The module places space exploration in the greater context of the history of human exploration, and allows the students to investigate how scientists and engineers today plan missions to study worlds in the solar system and extend their exploration even farther in the Universe.
Strange New Planet This activity brings insight into the processes involved in learning about planetary exploration, demonstrating how planetary features are discovered by the use of remote sensing techniques, but also showing the relationship between new technology and new scientific discoveries.
On the Moon This guide has six activities that bring engineering and NASA's Moon missions to life. Some are applicable for elementary-aged students, and one is for high school students, but most are targeted for middle school students.
Lunar Nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon Educator Guide The Lunar Nautics Educator Guide has 40 activities. This guide features lessons that address the basics of Newton's Laws of Motion, rocket design, microgravity, and the Moon. Students will design, test and analyze a model lunar lander, a robot and a soda bottle rocket. Other activities include building edible models of spacecraft and a solar oven to cook hot dogs. Students can also build a microgravity sled as part of an underwater activity.
Desert RATS Teacher Site Selection Students research and present an exploration mission timeline proposal that utilizes the scientific process to meet science objectives and mission parameters for the field site. The goal is for students to create a 3-day mission timeline of activities for exploration.
Mars Robotics Activities From looking at personal robots to those we send to other worlds, these activities will help students learn the different elements necessary to design and build a robotic mission to the Red Planet.
"Out of Sight" Remote Vehicle Activity Engineers and scientists tested the FIDO rover in the Mojave Desert. The rover drivers worked out of a trailer without watching the rovers. In similar fashion, in this activity students drive a remote-controlled car through a course to learn the challenges faced while trying to operate a planetary rover. They use measurement, geometry and problem-solving skills to move through the course.


Grades 9-14
Students in this range can go beyond simple models and focus on integrating the mission's science content with the mission design, as well as planning to conduct new activities and exploring higher-level science concepts as they relate to the mission design. (Science Education Standards)

Activity Description
Mission Design Mission Design is intended to provide an overarching framework for discussing exploration in general. The module places space exploration in the greater context of the history of human exploration, and allows the students to investigate how scientists and engineers today plan missions to study worlds in the solar system and extend their exploration even farther in the Universe.
Structure and Properties of Matter: Ion Propulsion Module This module is intended to engage students and the interested public in the propulsion technology that is necessary for Dawn to complete its mission. As students interact with this module, they will gain an understanding of charges and relative charge, momentum and frames of reference, ionization and plasma, how an ion propulsion system works, and they will experiment with designing an ion engine to determine optimal conditions.
Fundamentals of Lunar Exploration: The Search for Lunar Ice Students design and build a mission and TopoBot rover to search for ice in the lunar polar regions.
Space Math: The Dawn Mission -- Ion Rockets and Spiral Orbits Students determine the shape of the trajectory taken by a spacecraft using a constant-thrust ion motor using differential and integral calculus for arc lengths.
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Last Updated: 16 Apr 2014