Toys in Space Investigation

Target Audience
  • Informal Educators
  • Educators: K-12
  • Students
Hosting Center(s)
  • Marshall Space Flight Center
Subject Category
  • Physical Science
Unit Correlation
  • Exploring NASA Missions
  • Exploring Engineering and Technology
  • Exploring Space
  • Special Programs
Grade Level
  • 04
  • 05
  • 06
  • 07
  • 08
  • 09
Minimum Delivery Time
  • 030 min(s)
Maximum Connection Time
  • 050 min(s)

Event Focus

In this investigation students play the role of scientists and engineers in examining the physics of popular toys and games in the classroom and try to answer the question: Will this toy work in microgravity and how could the toy be modified or engineered to perform better in the microgravity environment?




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


Students connect with NASA and watch the results of the toys in space. In the process of learning about the results the videoconference identifies how exploration and science benefit Earth, the connection between their toys experiments and how that can lead to a career at NASA, along with discussing the physics involved with the toys in space experiments.



Instructional Objectives The Toys in Space Investigation attempts to accomplish three things:

  1. Use the fun concept of Toys in Space to serve as a physics primer by investigating forces and motion as they are applied to toys and games familiar to students; and then learning if these toys and games will function in a microgravity environment.
  2. Let students participate in a NASA science investigation that allows them to be the investigators.
  3. Expose students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers by letting them play the role of scientists, technicians, and engineers during the investigation.





The learner will share prior knowledge about gravity, microgravity environments and the laws of motion with the NASA Education Specialist.


The learner will compare and contrast how the toys functions in 1-G and microgravity environments.


The learner will discover the effects of microgravity on the toy experiments.


The learner will explain possible engineering solutions for the toys that improves their performance in microgravity.


The learner will demonstrate their understanding of how laws of motion by completing a post-activity.


Sequence of Events


Pre-Conference Activities


Classroom Investigation A part of the DLN Toys in Space module, students investigate four toys in the classroom and complete a Student Investigation Sheet for each of the toys.The four toys that will be investigated are:

  • Jump Rope
  • Soccer
  • Paper Boomerang
  • Kendama (ball and cup)

Engineering a Boomerang and Kendama- Most schools have a soccer ball and jump rope, but usually do not have a boomerang or a kendama. This module allows for the students to build a boomerang and design and engineer a kendama. Use the below to help with the construction:

  • Boomerang- using card stock paper, print the template at the end of this document (also on the support website) onto the card stock paper and have the students cut it out. Teacher note: have students try throwing the boomerang several different ways; each time recording information about thrust, spin, and direction. Also, toys stores often carry several “in door” boomerang that can also be used
  • Kendama- this toy can be built using the following supplies: plastic cup, string, tape, ping-pong balls, and a craft stick (optional). Describing the toy to the students (instead of showing them what it looks like) often produced many different “ball and cup” toys.

Break classroom into four sets of teams (one team per toy). With larger groups it may be necessary to have more than one team per toy. Have each team investigate and complete the Student Investigation Sheet together, or they may break-up the assignments so everyone gets to participate.

  • Lead Scientist Presenter- Coordinates with team investigation findings and presents back to NASA for videoconference.
  • Lead Scientist Recorder- Coordinates with team so that all questions are answered shares findings with Lead Scientist Presenter.
  • Engineer- Builds or modifies experiment being tested and helps to explain how toy / game is supposed to function and origin of toy.
  • Astronaut Technician- Conducts experiments on Earth for rest of team to observe.

Complete Student Investigation Sheet  (link below) and gather any other physical demonstrations you would like to share with NASA (digital photos, on-camera example, etc…) Related Documents:


Videoconference Activities

  • NASA’s vision for Human Exploration of Space
  • Science with toys in microgravity
  • NASA Career Highlight: Lead Increment Scientist
  • Research in microgravity
  • Predicting the physics of toys
  • Engineering solutions
  • Student Prediction: Paper Boomerang
  • Results & Discussion
  • Student Prediction: Jump Rope
  • Results & Discussion
  • Student Prediction: Kendama
  • Results & Discussion
  • Student Prediction: Soccer
  • Results & Discussion

Post-Conference Activities


Have students build on what they’ve learned by designing, building, and testing a toy that would work on the Moon or Mars. Students then develop a marketing campaign for the toy using: print, electronic media, or by presenting to the class or to NASA.




Physical Science

• Position and motion of objects

• Evidence, models, and exploration


Science and Technology

• Understanding about science and technology

• Abilities of technological design

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