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.



Cubes in Space Proposals Accepted!

What is Cubes in Space?

Cubes in Space is a STE[A]M-based global program for students to design and compete to launch an experiment into space.  Cubes in Space is linked with NASA providing opportunity for students from 22 countries.

Students as Rocket Scientists

7th grade science students methodically worked through a process of developing an experimental idea they wanted to test in space.  They learned the basics of how such an experiment in a small cube would handle transport and flight, thinking about how best to protect their experiment and collect data.  Finally they focused on writing a scientific proposal in anticipation for flight consideration, either in a sounding rocket or research balloon mission.

Proposals were due by March 4, in which students wrote a succinct proposal following required components that explained and pitched their experimental design. Accepted proposal designs were announced on April 1. From all the submissions, only 80 experiments would be chosen for the sounding rocket mission (SR-3) and 50 for the high altitude research balloon mission (RB-2). We were fortunate to have four 7th grade science groups’ proposals granted from International School!  One of my students initially thought it was an April fool’s joke when I shared the good news her group’s proposal was accepted, I’m glad to say it was the real deal. We are excited to say the least. Students will receive their Cubes in which to integrate their experimental payload in early April, 2016.

Next Steps

Once we have the cubes, students will need to prepare their experiments and then we’ll send them to NASA for space flight.  We’ll have to wait until summer to receive the experimental data in which students will then prepare how they will communicate their results to a wider scientific audience.

The Cubes will be launched into space via sounding rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA in late June 2016.  The Launch of balloon payloads will be from the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility at Fort Sumner, NM.

For more information Cubes in Space

Cubes in Promo Video

Launching STEM with Cubes in Space

Last week 7th grade science finalized earnest requests to launch their experimental ideas into space.  They finished their NASA Cubes in Space proposals, attempting to address all the required components of payload, experimental design, data collection and communication of results. We had a range of ideas from how microgravity would stress chicken bones, if popcorn would pop in reduced altitude pressure to wonderings of what would happen to the cell structure in a blade of grass in space. Their research, questioning and proposals were of their own design, receiving peer review and critique. We even had a few AP Physics students willing to lend their critical eye on the questions they asked, if indeed they were true scientific questions.  The proposals have all been officially submitted to NASA for review for flight consideration. We are hopeful to be asked clarifying questions which will mean their proposals are in the process of being considered for future flight.  If we’re lucky we will hear positive news that we will receive a cube to test our experiments in flight.  If not, we’ll will review what we learned, which is a great deal about how science works in the “real world”.  In either case, we will have learned what rocket scientists already know, that science and experimental design is a process, a protocol and a format.  How one explains what they want to know, why they want to know it and how it relates to the real world is what science is all about.  My 7th graders stepped outside of “what do I need to do to get a grade?” to “how to explain this so NASA will grant me a cube?”   I know my students, with their CiS proposals, worked through authentic scientific processing, more so than they could have gained from a “NASA” unit in a textbook.  Now, here’s hoping we’re granted a cube…or two.