NASA

Cubes in Space – Year Two

What does magnetic putty, kinetic sand, aluminum, and carbon fiber have in common? These are all materials that will be tested on a NASA sounding rocket for Cubes in Space experiments.

For a second year in a row, my students have brainstormed, hypothesized, designed, and written proposals for experiments in 4×4 cm cubes. In our 7th grade science classes, we are primarily focused on earth and space science. We are fortunate to have an amateur astronomer who regularly visits our classroom to help us think beyond the classroom walls. This year we sent three science classes worth of “Cube” proposals for flight (test) consideration. We were excited to learn three cubes were selected for flight this summer.

International School Team Granted NASA Rocket Flight

Cubes in Space™ a program by idoodledu inc., in collaboration with NASA’s Langley Research Center, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and Colorado Space Grant Consortium, offers global design competitions for students 11-18 years of age to develop STEAM-based experiments for launch into space.

Used in formal or informal learning environments, students and educators are exposed to engaging online content and activities in preparation for the design and development of an experiment to be integrated into a small cube. Throughout the experience, students develop key 21st century skills; communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

Since 2014, Cubes in Space has flown nearly 400 experiments representing 1,500 educators and over 20,000 students from 57 different countries. This year nearly 600 educators and thousands of students from 39 countries participated and proposed experiments for a space on a NASA sounding rocket or high-altitude scientific balloon mission.  A total of 160 experiments were selected and were designed by students from Australia, Austria, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, and the United States of America.  

The experiments will be launched via sounding rocket in late June 2017 from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia or by high-altitude scientific balloon in late summer 2017 from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.

This year’s Cubes in Space experiments will be testing the extreme conditions and forces present in a sounding rocket on their materials. Students have taken note of their pre-flight material data and observations and they will be ready to analyze their materials once their cubes are returned in the fall. If asked, I suspect students will report the tricky part of their experiment was making sure the weight of the cube met the 64 grams (+/- 2 grams) requirement. The materials used in the cubes did not weigh very much, which meant they had to be creative about how to add ballast to their cube without affecting their experiment. Once the cubes were prepped with experimental materials, there were many smiles, high fives, and joyous laughter that the cubes measured within the acceptable weight range!

We are excited to mail our package of cubes to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. We are looking forward to the summer launch and our hypotheses will have to wait until this fall to be confirmed…or not.

 

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Teacher in Space

More specifically, a Teacher Learning about Space Education 

Recently I was invited to a NASA & CASIS presentation about the International Space Station at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA. As a science teacher, the nerd meter was off the charts, “What, me? Take an afternoon to listen about being in space? You bet!”

NASA and the International Space Station (ISS) exhibit have been on a “Destination Station” Northwest roadshow. The purpose of their presentation is to share the wealth of ISS information readily available and how companies and students can take advantage of ISS research opportunities. Small breakout Q&A sessions for the local STEM educator community provide time to talk and share. For me, the afternoon provided a list of NASA/ISS/CASIS connections for my curriculum next year. It was stated that the “possibilities are endless; the rewards could be outstanding,” and I couldn’t agree more.

CASIS, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, is a non-profit manager of the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and its aim is to create public awareness of National Lab research by making space science more accessible to the world. The US Lab on ISS is currently conducting research and development from big companies to small schools, with their focus ranging from STEM to life science to physical science. The question is, “Why do research on ISS at all?” The answer is supremely simple, the US Lab on ISS is like no other lab on Earth. The vantage, perspective, and conditions are not constrained by gravity. Experiments can be tested in a micro-gravity environment, thereby providing excellent environmental controls or removing the limiting factor of gravity. In the extreme conditions of space, forces and fluids will be less constrained, fluids will take a spherical shape, there is no “up” or “down” and sedimentation and solidification are not determined by gravity. There is much to learn, test, discover, and invent in a home laboratory that is away from home.

Astronaut Mike Barratt spent 6 months on ISS and shared a day in the life of living on the Space Station, traveling in both Shuttle Discovery and Russian Soyuz. It was “Zero to 15,000 mph in 8 minutes 45 seconds for orbital velocity.”

The dominant factor of being on the ISS is weightlessness. Apparently it takes a bit of effort and time to coordinate moving around, from flying “superman style” to using hands to locomote. I was surprised to learn how big the Space Station is, particularly when you shift your thinking from a traditional “square footage” to a 3D or cubic footage view. All available space is utilized and there is no up or down. It is a funny idea (prank) that if a crew member was carefully guided to the middle of a compartment, ensuring they were not in motion and where they could not touch walls, then they would be stuck. In micro-gravity, Newton’s laws of motion (or lack of motion) are in affect.

Since Mike is also a medical doctor, he spoke of anthropometry, recycling urine to water, and various medical tests and blood draws. In space, the neutral body position is not straight and thus requires rethinking work and sleep stations. In space, the internal organs are not affected by gravity and thus their positions are changed. In space, toilets require directed airflow since there is no gravity…let that sink in. In space, bone and muscle mass will decrease unless astronauts exercise daily with countermeasures, since there is no gravity to lift or move your body’s own weight against.

Astronaut Mike Barratt

Astronaut Mike Barratt

As a science teacher, learning more about ISS meant learning there is a wealth of student opportunities for my science classroom. There is so much happening on the station that the challenge is narrowing down which lesson, research, or connection to utilize. To assist with this, I had the pleasure of meeting with Pete Hasbrook from the ISS Program Science Office to discuss NASA and ISS resources available to educators. I am excited to spend time organizing my curriculum to make room for these research opportunities for my students next year.

MS Edu NASA-ISS Pete and Cheryl Chat

ISS Chat with NASA’s Pete Hosbrook

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