STEM on Station

Target Audience
  • Students
Hosting Center(s)
  • Goddard Space Flight Center
Subject Category
  • Physical Science
  • Math
Unit Correlation
  • Exploring NASA Missions
  • Exploring Engineering and Technology
  • Exploring Space
Grade Level
  • 06
  • 07
  • 08
Minimum Delivery Time
  • 030 min(s)
Maximum Connection Time
  • 050 min(s)

Event Focus

How is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) used aboard the International Space Station (ISS)? How is this relatable to STEM topics in the classroom and life here on Earth?



This module is appropriate for video conference AND web conference presentation.

Join NASA where your students can see firsthand how operating the International Space Station (ISS) is tied to your Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) classroom lessons! This comprehensive module puts students in the driver’s seat as they complete four activities which are close models of concepts that real NASA engineers utilize for the ISS. Grow crystals with the science activity! Create an end effector (much like the ISS robotic arm) with the robotics activity! The engineering activity challenges students to illustrate the relationship between the thickness of space suit fabric, and the mass and velocity of projectiles so they have a better understanding of how space materials must be constructed to resist orbital debris. In the math activity, students must rely on their algebra and geometry know how to calculate the electrical energy production of the ISS so they can recommend to the flight director which research experiments can continue. During your event, the DLN will provide additional information regarding the marvel of the ISS! Completion of activities is encouraged but not required. If your students have completed the activity, they will be given time to share their results with the DLN host!


Instructional Objectives




The learner will share their prior knowledge of the ISS with the NASA education specialist


The learner will demonstrate each of the STEM pre-activities


The learner will interpret results of each STEM pre-activity


The learner will predict what the results of each STEM pre-activity means for the operation and research aboard the ISS.


The learner will reflect and share their experiences, following completion of each STEM pre-activity demonstration. 


Sequence of Events


Pre-Conference Activities


The purpose of a pre-activity is to expose students to the content learned in this DLN module. Completing the pre-conference activities improves the interaction between students and the NASA education specialist during the video conference, and results in a better overall educational experience.


The following activities are strongly recommended but not required:


S-     Crystal Growth in Space                 

T-      International Space Station Robotic Arm                

E-      High Velocity Debris: Space Suit Protection                

M-     Problem Solving: Saving Space Station Power                 



Click HERE  to access the Teacher's Resource Guide.




Airlock: A portion of the ISS that is compartmentalized to allow depressurization for the purpose of exiting the interior of the station. An airlock used when astronauts conduct spacewalks.


Anthropometric: The condition of appearing to be human like, i.e. the spacesuit is anthropometric since it needs to contour to the shape of a human body.


Canada Arm: A robotic arm attached to the outside of the ISS. It is used to transport and manipulate a number of items including modules, external experiments, and astronauts on spacewalks.


Crystal: A solid in which its atoms are arranged in orderly, repeating patterns. Aboard the ISS, crystals used in medical research grow larger and more purely than compared to similar crystals on Earth.


EarthKam: A camera found inside the ISS. It is attached near a window and allows students to take pictures of the Earth. EarthKAM stands for Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students. More information can be found at https://earthkam.ucsd.edu/.


End effector: A tool usually found on the end of a robotic arm that assists in accomplishing a task.


Grapple fixture: A structure that is attached to an object so that a robotic end effector can firmly connect to that object in order to manipulate it.


Gravity: The natural force of attraction exerted by a celestial body, such as Earth, upon objects at or near its surface, tending to draw them toward the center of the body. The attraction of all objects to one another due to their mass.


International Space Station (ISS): An orbiting science laboratory built by sixteen nations. The ISS serves as a research laboratory that has a microgravity environment in which crews conduct experiments in biology, human physiology, physics, astronomy and meteorology.


Laboratory: A facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurements are performed.


Microgravity: An environment, produced by freefall, that alters the local effects of gravity and makes objects seem weightless. When the Space Shuttle or ISS are orbiting the Earth, they are constantly “falling” around the Earth and thus experience microgravity or “weightlessness”.


Mission: The assigned task or goal of a spacecraft or crew.


Orbit: The path an object follows around another object, such as the ISS circling around the Earth.


Orbital Debris: A wide array of small and large objects found in outer space. Orbital debris can be anything from spent rocket stages to tiny paint flakes that have remained in outer space. This debris travels at high rates of speed and poses some risk to the ISS and spacewalking astronauts. NASA Mission Control is able to track objects that are larger than two inches in diameter.


Solar Panel/Array: The collection of photovoltaic silicon cells located outside of the ISS. These cells are connected together to form larger panels which form the four solar arrays of the ISS. Taken together, the solar arrays on the ISS Produce 32.8 kW of electricity from the Sun’s radiation to provide all needed power demands for ISS operation and research.


Space Suit: A pressurized garment that an astronaut wears when outside a spacecraft. It is essentially a miniature spacecraft that provides all of the requirements of life (air, pressure, and suitable temperature). NASA refers to it as an EMU (Extra-vehicular mobility unit).


Space Walk: A period of activity spent outside a spacecraft by an astronaut in space. NASA refers to a spacewalk as an EVA (Extra-vehicular activity).


Videoconference Activities


The event consists of a discussion/demonstration of the following:


  •  purpose and components of the International Space Station (ISS)
  • (S) Scientific research conducted on the ISS
  • (T) Uses of technology on the ISS
  • (E) Engineering designs for space flight/spacesuits
  • (M) Using mathematics to determine solar power generation on the ISS


In addition, students will be invited to demonstrate and/or discuss the results of their work for each of the 4 activities completed in the pre-event activities.


Post-Conference Activities


Review the resources section in the teacher guide/resource guide for extension and follow-up activities.


We value your input! By providing us with feedback, you help continue improving our programs and help them remain free of cost to educators across the country. Feedback from you and a few of your students would be appreciated. Please complete an online evaluation form to provide feedback on the NASA Video

Conference Program at http://dln.nasa.gov/dln/content/feedback/.






Science Content Standard A: Science as Inquiry

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understanding about scientific inquiry


Science Content Standard E: Science and Technology

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understanding about science and technology

> Back To Top

Page Last Updated: November 5th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator