NASA STEM Challenges: Spaced Out Sports

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NASA STEM Challenges: Spaced Out Sports

Objective: Students apply their understanding of Newton’s laws of motion to design a game or activity for a microgravity environment.

Grade Level: 5-8

Time Required:

  • 1 hour prep
  • 45 min.-1 hour for Newton’s Laws activity
  • 2-3 hours for challenge

Description: Before students start to develop their game, they should complete three activities to learn about Newton’s laws of motion. Then students will apply what they learned by putting Newton’s laws to work as they design a game for astronauts to play on the International Space Station.

Final Product: Student teams will create a Game Instruction Sheet about their game design and an accompanying video for submission to NASA.

Plan Your Challenge

Resources to Complete the Challenge PDF Video
Training Overview for Educators   Watch or Download
Classroom Management Training for Educators   Watch or Download
Materials available on the space station and steps to the engineering design process View [1MB]  
Challenge Checklist View [50KB]  
Classroom Activity 1: Center of All Things View [781KB] Watch or Download
Classroom Activity 2: Hovering on a Cushion of Air View [2MB] Watch or Download
Classroom Activity 3: Javelin Rockets View [1MB] Watch or Download
Materials List for Activities View [42KB] Watch or Download


Deliver Your Challenge

Resources to Complete the Challenge PDF Video
Introductory Video for Students   Watch or Download
Presentation Slides for Students View [2MB]  
Presentation Slides for Students Discussion Guide View [542KB]  
Video Criteria and Rubric View [76KB]  

Submit Student Videos

Blue video clapboardLearn helpful video production tips and access the technical requirements and instructions for submitting videos.

How to Submit Videos

Entry Requirements and Judging

Game Instruction Sheet components:

  1. General Overview -- Briefly describe the game in two to four sentences.
  2. Game Equipment -- See the list of materials available on the International Space Station. 
  3. Definition of Terms (unique to your game in space) -- Limit your words to one sentence per definition.
  4. Rules of the Game in Space -- Include scoring, game periods and timelines, fouls, penalties and violations, and objects used. 
  5. Safety Plan -- State guidelines and precautions, gear and equipment, and personal protective equipment needed in your game. (Keep SAFETY in mind for playing the game on Earth and in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.)
  6. Play will occur within the U.S. Destiny Lab. Areas of measurements:
    •      Area: 18.5 meters long, 9.2 meters wide
    •      Volume: 117 cubic meters when empty
    •      Usable volume: 35 cubic meters
  7. Game Diagrams -- Include diagrams that demonstrate how to play the game in space, and explain the science of the game in relation to Newton’s three laws of motion. These diagrams may be used in the video demonstration. See Example Playbook for Basketball pp. 5-7 [342KB PDF]
  8. Explain if your game can be played on Earth. Why or why not?
  9. The instructions should not exceed five pages (8 ½ x 11) and should be written in a 12-point font. The playbook will be accepted in Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format ONLY. The instructions should be created in a word processing program ONLY, and not in PowerPoint or other presentation software. Instructions submitted as presentations will be disqualified.
  10. Judging -- See Video Criteria and Rubric [76KB PDF]


Video Features
NASA Do It Yourself Podcast Sports Demo provides an explanation of Newton’s laws and the effects of microgravity on sports.
Josh Finch explains Newton's three laws of motion - Watch or Download
Chris Hadfield Space Oddity
Chris Hadfield Jewel
Spaced Out Sports Career Videos

Interactive Features
ISS Live!
Spot the Station
Fun Facts Weight On Mars 

Bookmark and Poster
The Spaced Out Sports poster and bookmark portray space and sports connections.
Poster: Spaced Out Sports Poster [2.34MB PDF] | Bookmark Front and Back

Pop! Rocket Launcher Directions


Related Resources

EarthWe Are the Explorers
Introduce students to NASA with this video about NASA’s past and future exploration.

Astronaut in spacesuit floating near the space stationWhat Is Engineering?
What is engineering, and who exactly is an engineer? Learn more in this video.

Girl positions pasta on a tableSpaghetti Anyone?
Use this simple activity to introduce students to Engineering Design.

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Page Last Updated: December 4th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator