Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 14-04-2011
Tags: design, design a parachute, drag, engineer, interactive, lab, Mars, mars explorer rover, NOVA, Science, stability, STEM, strength, test, volume
What it is: NOVA from PBS has an excellent interactive called Design a Parachute. In this activity, students take on the role of head engineer in charge of designing the Mars Explorer Rover parachute. The goal is to design a chute that will get the Mars Explorer Rover to the surface of Mars safely. The interactive challenges students to consider trade-offs in parachute stability, strength and volume as they design the perfect chute. As students begin the activity, they are briefed on system requirements that must be met. Students are also asked to consider cost as they design their parachute. Finally students design and test their chute.
How to integrate the NOVA Design a Parachute interactive into the classroom: In this activity, students assume the role of engineer as they design a parachute that will slow the Mars Explorer Rover as it lands on the surface of Mars. I like the authentic feel of this activity, students are led through the thinking process of an engineer as they consider all of the requirements the chute must meet before they begin designing.
Approach this interactive as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer. As a class, get “briefed” on the requirements for the parachute design. Discuss how these requirements may impact the parachute design. Treat this like an actual briefing and encourage discussion (all ages like to pretend!). Before students access the interactive, ask them to sketch their thoughts about parachute design. This lets them think through the design apart from the pre-determined categories presented in the interactive.
Students can design and test their parachutes individually in a one to one computer lab setting or take turns designing and testing in a computer center lab on classroom computers.
Debrief after the interactive to discuss the parameters that were the most successful and what students learned about volume, drag, strength and stability.
Extend this activity by creating a mock-up of the parachute they designed online. Find a high place on the playground or in the building where students can test these parachutes. What did they have to adjust for an Earth bound parachute?
Tips: The NOVA page has a great introduction paragraph about how engineers approach a problem. Be sure to read it with your students! Encourage students to learn more about the Mars Explorer Rover before designing the chute. It may adjust their thinking!
Please leave a comment and share how you are using NOVA Design a Parachute in your classroom!