Educator Features

In Perfect Harmony
Students ranging in age from 6 years old to high school freshmen were in harmony over the name for NASA's second space station node. In March 2007, NASA's Node 2 was officially named Harmony by U.S. students through the Name the International Space Station Node 2 Challenge.

Harmony node
Image to left: This graphic shows the International Space Station's Harmony node, formerly Node 2. Credit: NASA

The Harmony node is scheduled to be installed on the space station during the STS-120 shuttle mission in late 2007. Harmony will increase the living and working space on the space station to approximately 18,000 cubic feet, about the size of a three- or four-bedroom house. It will also allow science laboratories from the Japanese and European space agencies to connect to the space station. Later space shuttle flights will connect the Kibo Japanese experiment module and the European Columbus laboratory to Harmony.

The Name the Node 2 Challenge was one of NASA's Exploring Space Challenges, a project that provides educational opportunities to K-12 students at U.S. schools. More than 2,200 K-12 students participated in the Node 2 Challenge, which required students to learn about the space station, build a scale model of Node 2 and write an essay explaining their proposed name.

A panel of NASA educators, engineers, scientists and senior agency managers selected Harmony because the name symbolizes the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the space station, as well as the module's specific role in connecting the international partner modules.

Six schools submitted the name "Harmony": Browne Academy in Alexandria, Va.; Buchanan Elementary School in Baton Rouge, La.; League City Intermediate School in League City, Texas; Lubbock High School in Lubbock, Texas; West Navarre Intermediate School in Navarre, Fla.; and World Group Home School in Monona, Wis.

Student holding gray Harmony Node 2 model
Browne Academy

Paul Cummins' eighth-grade science students at Browne Academy said the word "harmony" is relevant to both the space station program and the Vision for Space Exploration. "(Harmony) originally meant 'to fit together,' which Node 2 will literally do with the space station's other parts," students wrote.

Image to right: Sam, a Browne Academy eighth-grader, holds the model of the Harmony node that he and his classmates constructed. Credit: Browne Academy

Students used recycled materials to make their model. The main body of the Node 2 model was a sanitary wipe container from the school lunch room. The docking ports were old fruit-fly vials. The openings of the vials were stuffed with crumpled aluminum foil. "The trickiest part was matching the dark dots on the outside," Cummins said. "This we did with black marker, but the lines of dots ended up quite curvy!"

Buchanan Elementary

Five boys standing in a classroom
Image to left: Buchanan students Stefan, Elvin, Jesse, Aiden and Eshan measure chicken wire to construct their Harmony node model. Credit: Buchanan Elementary

Sue Ellen Wilson's and Frances Brady's third-grade gifted students at Buchanan Elementary chose the name "Harmony" because of the harmony demonstrated by the many countries working together to build the International Space Station. “The word 'harmony' means a pleasing combination of the parts that make up a whole," the students wrote. "Once the Node 2 has been connected to the ISS, the laboratories will be together and will show how the separate laboratories have come together to make the ISS more complete and whole."

The students used the same dimensions as the actual Node 2, but in inches to keep the model proportional. The frame was made with chicken wire and duct tape. Students stuffed plastic sandwich bags with construction paper and then blew air into the bags to use as insulation on the interior wall.

The students created a circuit with a light bulb so the astronauts could see while working inside the node. Students made mechanical controls and astronauts out of LEGO bricks. The exterior was embellished with compact discs, bendable straws and metallic paint.

League City

The inside of a Node 2 model
Eighth-grade students in the gifted and talented program at League City Intermediate School divided into small groups to tackle the different tasks of the Node 2 challenge. Some worked on the essay while others worked on the model.

Image to right: The Harmony model made by League City students included detailed drawings of the Node's interior features, similar to those on the actual node. Credit: League City Intermediate School

Their model is 1:16 scale of the actual node, making it approximately 18 inches long and 11 inches in diameter.

In the students' essay, they talked about cooperation and how they learned about cooperation while participating in the Node 2 Challenge. "Anytime you work with somebody, you and your partner need to cooperate with each other to get the job done," the students wrote. "When we see U.S. Node 2, we see that lesson. Even though the world fights, it’s nice to know that there is still some peace and harmony."

The science students had help from students in the language arts, social studies, art, journalism and math departments. "Like the many countries working together to build the International Space Station, many groups in our school worked together to complete this project," the essay states.

"Instead of disagreement and conflict, the International Space Station encourages the countries to work together to achieve a common goal -- learning more about the Universe. Harmony symbolizes the connection between these countries."

Lubbock High School

The small team of ninth-graders at Lubbock High School researched the names of the other U.S. components on the space station to find the perfect name for Node 2. Lubbock science teacher Brad Neu said the students researched NASA's naming trend for space station components. "Most of the components have one name. It's very simple, but it still makes a statement," Neu said.

Teacher and students pose with aluminum-foil-covered model
The students used an online dictionary to find words that were similar in pattern to the other U.S. components, such as the Unity node and the Destiny laboratory: a simple word with a deep meaning.

Image to left: Lubbock science teacher Brad Neu mentored students Tim, Tanli and Shanyi in the Name Node 2 Challenge. Credit: Lubbock High School

Students elaborated on the meaning of the words "Unity" and "Harmony" in their essay. "[Unity] stands for the mutual relationships between the United States and other countries of the world," the students wrote. "We decided that the name for Node 2 should be Harmony, because it also stands for the peaceful bond and support between all the countries in the world."

The students used hula hoops and wire hangers to construct the frame of their model. The hula hoop dimension set the scale, which the students calculated as 1:4.84. They covered the exterior of the frame with aluminum foil and insulated it with butcher paper for added support. The connections on the exterior were made of aluminum pie plates. Neu said aluminum was used to mimic the materials used to construct the actual node.

West Navarre Intermediate School

Russ Yocum's third-grade class considered three possible names for Node 2: Harmony, Pythagoras and Bamoun.

Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher, best known as the author of the Pythagorean Theorem. The theorem (a² + b² =c²) states that in any right triangle the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the remaining two sides. "We discussed how the hypotenuse of a right triangle ‘joins’ the two sides together," Yocum said.

Bamoun is the name of a tribe in Cameroon, Africa, which celebrates unity with an image of a two-headed snake. Yocum said the two-headed snake represents two brothers who ruled the Bamouns and tried to kill one another so they could be the only ruler. The brothers were 'magically' transformed into a two-headed snake, representing unity over discord.

The students overwhelmingly chose Harmony for its significance in music and Greek mythology. "Harmony is the concept of many voices and instruments working in conjunction to produce one unified sound," the students wrote. "These meanings symbolize the spirit of international cooperation embodied by the International Space Station as a whole and the role played by the connector nodes -- the pieces that bring them all together.

"In mythology, the Greek goddess Harmonia was known as the goddess of order. ... The mythological roots for the name 'Harmony' are reminiscent of some of NASA's early (mission) names such as Mercury, Gemini and Apollo."

Students painting models
Image to right: West Navarre students paint details on their 1:111 scale models of Harmony. Credit: West Navarre Intermediate School

The class first tried to construct their model at a 1:2 scale using cardboard, but soon realized they needed better internal support for the 7- by 12-foot model. The model project quickly shrunk from really big to really small. Each student built their own Harmony model at a 1:111 scale. The miniature nodes were made from paper towel rolls cut into two-and-a-half-inch sections. The students had difficulty working with so small a model, too. Yocum used the difficulties as a teaching tool.

"I led the students in a discussion asking them how many of them thought it was difficult for us to try to build a 1:2 scale cardboard node and then our own 1:111 scale nodes," Yocum said. "After they all affirmed the difficulty, I asked them to imagine how hard it was for NASA and our international partners to construct the real connector node, in Italy -- one that had to be strong enough to last in space.

"We discussed how one of the most important tools available to an astronaut or explorer is not cardboard, paint and brushes, like we used, or even metal and rivets, such as in the real connector node, but determination. We learned that determination is the attitude of never giving up."

World Group

The World Group is a home-school cooperative attended by five girls, all 6 or 7 years old and all home-schooled in the Madison, Wis., area. Students meet together once a week to explore a topic of special interest.

Parent and children assembling a large wooden frame
David Dexheimer's daughter attends World Group meetings, and Dexheimer is a parent-host, partnering with the other parents to plan group activities.

Image to left: World Group parent David Dexheimer helps Wisconsin home-school students build the frame for their Harmony model. Credit: World Group

Dexheimer led the girls in several exercises to learn about the space station, including simulating a shuttle launch and playing "pin the shuttle on the space station" to learn about shuttle rendezvous and docking. They even made miniature space station models out of marshmallows and toothpicks, and paper tubes and aluminum foil. "Because they’re so young, it was so important to do those smaller projects," Dexheimer said. "The marshmallow models were a big hit. Those sorts of things really engaged them."

The Node 2 model was built to a 1:3 scale using a wood frame, cardboard, insulation material and paper. "Although our model was only one-third of the size of the actual station, it was still really big," Dexheimer said. All five of the girls could easily fit inside.

Related Resources
+ NASA Exploring Space Challenges

+ International Space Station

+ Harmony Node 2

+ NASA Education Web Site

+ Naming Harmony News Release

They set the finished Node 2 model inside an area marked-off to show the size of the actual Node 2. "Our model occupied only a small corner of the area," Dexheimer said. "It was easy to see the comparison of scale and to see just how big Harmony really is."

Dexheimer said the name "Harmony" was an obvious choice. "The word sums up the need for cooperation in space exploration. It complements the name 'Unity,' which already is a part of the ISS." He added the girls liked the name "Harmony" because "it just sort of rolls off your tongue."

Through competitions like the Name the Node 2 Challenge, NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's education. It is directly tied to the agency's major education goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on engaging and retaining students in education efforts that encourage their pursuit of disciplines critical to NASA's future engineering, scientific and technical missions.

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services