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Lesson Title: Space Place - Make a Balloon-Powered Nanorover
May 11, 2012

Unit: Engineering - Design Process

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Science and Technology

Teacher Prep Time: 40 minutes

Lesson Time Needed: 1 hour

Complexity Moderate

Keywords: design process, energy, motion, robotics, vision, direction


3 large Styrofoam meat trays (at least 9 by 11 inches)
4 flexible plastic drinking straws
3 small (10-inch) bamboo skewers (for making shish kababs)
7 pea-sized blobs of clay or Play-doh© or 7 small gum drops
1 large wire paper clip
1 small (7-inch) party balloon
1 small rubberband
Transparent tape (not the removable kind)
Printed pattern, decals and wheel treads (all on 2 sheets of paper)

Design and build a robotic rover with cardboard and a balloon.

Students will:
• Design a rover using patterns and materials provided.
• Investigate the engineering challenges of wheels, speed and friction.
• Examine the concept of a prototype in engineering.
• Demonstrate the use of potential and kinetic energy.
• Explain ways the rover can be used in space travel and exploration.

First page of Space Place: Make a Balloon Powered Nanorover

Lesson Guide
Space Place - Make a Balloon-Powered Nanorover Lesson
[100KB PDF file]



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Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Build a Nanorover
    Use cardboard and a balloon to power a rover across the floor.
    Keywords: design process, energy, motion, robotics

  2. Be Glad You're Not a Cyclops!
    Keywords: dimension, vision, images

  3. MARSDIAL: Show Me the Way to Go Home
    Keywords: direction, shadows, geometric measuring

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Understanding of scientific concepts.
• An appreciation of "how we know" what we know in science.
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
• The dispositions to use the skills, abilities and attitudes associated with science.
Physical Science
• Motions and Forces.
• Transfer of Energy.
Science in Technology
• Abilities of technological design.
• Understanding about science and technology.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes.
• Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
Research and Information Fluency
• Plan strategies to guide inquiry.
• Process data and report results.
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
• Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator