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Lesson Title: Spacecraft Structures
August 23, 2011

Unit: Engineering - Challenges

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Science, Mathematics, Technology and Engineering

Teacher Prep Time: 4-8 hours

Lesson Time Needed: Six 45-Minute Sessions

Complexity Moderate



This activity challenges students to solve a real-world problem that is part of the space program using creativity, cleverness and scientific knowledge while learning about forces, structures and energy transfer.

Students will:
• Accurately measure drop heights and compute average heights.
• Observe a design before testing and pick out the "key features."
• Observe a model during and after testing and document precisely what happens to the model.
• Apply the engineering design process.
• Record observations and organize data so that they can be exchanged with others and referred to later.

First page of Spacecraft Structures

Lesson Guide
Spacecraft Structures Lesson
[127KB PDF file]



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Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Spacecraft Structures - Session 1
    Introducing the Challenge and Getting Started: Overview of NASA's Spacecraft Structures, demonstrate the launch stand with teacher's poorly designed thrust structures, explain data recording sheets, journals and culminating activity.
  2. Spacecraft Structures - Session 2
    Design 1: Review safety issues found in the guide, introduce the materials, design, build, test, record and share solutions.
  3. Spacecraft Structures - Sessions 3 and 4
    Designs 2, 3, 4 and 5; repeat cycle.
  4. Spacecraft Structures - Session 5
    Construct a storyboard or poster of final design testing results, sketches, steps throughout development and journals.
  5. Spacecraft Structures - Session 6
    Student presentations linking design strategies and observations to science concepts.

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Understanding of scientific concepts.
• Understanding of the nature of science.
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
• Dispositions to use the skills, abilities and attitudes associated with science.

Physical Science
• Position and motion of objects.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Expressions and Equations
• Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between dependent and independent variables.
• Solve real-life and mathematical problems using numerical and algebraic expressions and equations.
• Understand the connections between proportional relationships, lines and linear equations.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes.
• Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
• Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
• Identify trends and forecast possibilities.

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
• Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
• Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
• Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
• Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.


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