EDC K-4 Challenge

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Become a Part of Space History -- Grades K-4

NASA Exploration Design Challenge logo

Charting Your Journey to Mars!

Students will study the effects of radiation on human space travelers and analyze different materials that simulate space radiation shielding for Orion. After participating in activities guided by their teachers, students will recommend materials that best block harmful radiation.

All students completing the challenge can join participants from around the world to celebrate the Exploration Flight Test-1 of Orion by having their names flown on board as virtual crew members. The deadline to submit student names for the virtual crew is June 30, 2014.

Get started. Follow the steps on this page to guide K-4 students through activities to complete the challenge.

Step-by-Step Educator Guide -- Grades K-4

Step 1: Register to Participate in Exploration Design Challenge

Register before beginning the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. Registration is easy and free.

Click on the registration link. You will be taken to a National Institute of Aerospace website to complete the process. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email, which includes a link to submit student names for the virtual crew upon completion of the challenge. Please keep this email until completion of the challenge.

Exit NASA to Register
›  Register for the NASA Exploration Design Challenge  →

Step 2: Introduce the Design Challenge

A. Use the following Student Scenario to introduce students to the NASA Exploration Design Challenge for grades K-4.

When traveling in space, the space vehicle protects astronauts from space debris, which usually can be seen, and space radiation, which cannot be seen. One of the most difficult things to block is space radiation, and it is also the most deadly. Space radiation affects human cells and tissues.

For long space missions, materials used to build the spacecraft must give the space explorer more protection from space radiation than what is currently provided.

NASA and Lockheed Martin are developing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space and protect them during extended space travel.

B. Encourage students to ask questions about Orion and the challenges explorers will face traveling to Mars by viewing one or more of NASA's "Ask the Experts" videos found on the NASA Exploration Design Challenge website.

Step 3: Guide Student Scientists

A. Complete Part 1 of the Ray Shielding Activity. Part 1: Steps 1-10 in the Instructional Procedure will help guide student scientists through an experimental analysis of different materials and their ability to block simulated space radiation.

B. Background information, procedures and a data collection chart for Part 1 is included in the Ray Shielding Student Section. 

C. The Ray Shielding Activity can be modified easily for students in grades K-2. Younger students may not be able to complete the data collection charts, but they can test assorted materials such as tissue paper, construction paper or cardstock to see which materials best block the simulated radiation.

D. Use these additional/optional resources to help guide learners through the Ray Shielding Activity.
› Materials List [75KB PDF file]
› Script [2MB PDF file]
› Presentation [4MB PDF file]

Step 4: Guide Student Engineers

A. Challenge student engineers to design a solution for the following problem.
Problem: Which of the materials provided will block the most simulated space radiation and be the best material for designing a radiation shield for Orion?

B. Use the Elementary School Design Packet for Grades K-5 to guide student engineers through the design process.
›  Elementary School Design Packet  [896KB PDF file]

Step 5: Submit Student Names for the Virtual Flight Crew

A. Once students have completed Steps 2 - 4, please submit student names for the virtual crew by using the link on your confirmation email. If you need to have the link re-sent to you, please send an email to nasaedc@nianet.org.

These student names are added to a list of all participants in the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. The list of names will fly on the Exploration Flight Test-1 of Orion as virtual crew members. The virtual crew will be the only crew flying on Orion’s inaugural mission. The names must be submitted by June 30, 2014, to join the virtual crew.

B. After submitting these names, download certificates recognizing participation in the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. Certificates for both students and educators are available for download and may be duplicated.

Step 6: Encourage Student Experts

A. Extend student interest and engagement by returning to the NASA Exploration Design Challenge website to find new video segments, resource links, and press releases.

B. Additional activities in the Resources section may be completed to strengthen student understanding about radiation and the effects of radiation on humans. These activities include inquiry explorations, hands-on activities and interactive simulations. 

Safety in the Educational Classroom and Laboratory

Safety is an important goal for all curricular areas of education. Safety issues are a special concern for STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities and courses. Many national and state academic standards address the need for schools and subject areas to promote student development of knowledge and abilities in a safe learning environment.

It is the responsibility of the school's administration for providing a learning environment that is safe, up-to-date and supportive of learning. Additionally, teachers are responsible for their students' welfare in the classroom and laboratory.

Teachers must be knowledgeable and diligent in providing a safe learning environment. Students should receive safety instructions relevant to the topics being taught. Assessments must accompany the lessons on safety, and records must be kept on student results. The teacher must properly supervise students while they are working. The teacher must inspect and maintain equipment and tools to ensure they are in proper working condition. Parents should be informed about the subject in which their child is enrolled and should be educated about the safety plan that is being used. The teacher should develop a safety checklist to assure safe conditions exist and procedures are being followed in the classroom and laboratory.

Safety Rules:
Below are examples of safety rules that may be used. Teachers should develop their own safety rules to fit the needs of their classroom.

  1. Conduct yourself in a responsible and safe manner at all times.
  2. Follow all written and verbal instructions carefully. If you do not understand a procedure or how to use a tool, ask your teacher before proceeding.
  3. Keep your work area clean at all times.
  4. Use proper safety protection, i.e., gloves, goggles, proper clothing.
  5. Notify your teacher in an emergency.

Do you have questions about the Exploration Design Challenge?
Email nasaedc@nianet.org


Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle
Orion will carry the crew to space and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
› Orion Home Page
› Orion Paper Model


Cover page for Sun as a Star resource guide Sun As a Star (Grades K-8 and Informal)
Teach concepts related to the sun in these hour-long activities.

An image of the sun beside words that describe variations of images Sun Viewer  →
Students view real-time NASA satellite images of the sun and Earth in this Flash-based viewer.

The sun NASA eClips™ Our World: The Sun, A Real Star
This video clip explores the relationship between Earth and the sun. Learn about the layers of the sun and how Earth's magnetosphere acts like a giant handkerchief to protect us from all kinds of space weather.

An eruption of a solar flare NASA eClips™ Our World: Two Eyes on the Sun
Learn about two satellites that NASA launched to collect data about the sun. Learn about solar eruptions and how they affect Earth and astronauts in space.

The sun rises over an arched entrance with the words Welcome to the Land of the Magic Windows as cartoon people walk toward the entrance Space Place: The Land of Magic Windows  →
Take a trip to the Land of Magic Windows and learn about the electromagnetic spectrum in this interactive game.

Cosmic Colors logo Space Place: Cosmic Colors  →
Telescopes capture images with instruments that detect light our eyes cannot see. Those images are colored so we can see what the instruments saw. The Cosmic Colors viewer shows those colored images as well as visible images that humans can see without telescopes. Take a look!

Illustration of the super flares in the ionosphere All About Solar Flares
A NASA scientist explains solar flares and how they can result in X-rays that affect the ionosphere, causing an interruption in radio waves.

Logo for Space Weather Center Space Weather Games  →
Select from a list of space weather online games. Choose either English or Spanish versions.

The words SPACE LIFE, with colorful montage of butterfly and flower, spider’s web, man and glovebox, and other life science images NASA's Teaching From Space -- Space Life Sciences
The NASA Space Life Sciences education website contains resources on living organisms in the space environment. Visit the topic sections for more information, and return to the website often for news on space life sciences research.

Page Last Updated: July 27th, 2016
Page Editor: Flint Wild