Getting stir-crazy? Cabin fever setting in? Need some space (yes, I went there)? Well, fear not! Today’s activity will solve all your problems: Launch your imagination AND use up all those empty food cartons, containers, cans, etc. from the past week at home.
How to start: Inform your child/children they have been hired to design a new launch vehicle for the next phase of human space flight. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to manage a team and develop their design.
What to do next: This is a team effort, so team member roles and responsibilities should be assigned. Start with a discussion about what those roles are. Once all roles are clearly defined, make assignments and start working! I recommend also reviewing the engineering design process, see link below. If the team gets stuck, some questions you can ask are:
- Where will your launch vehicle be going? Why does this matter? Will it need to land?
- How many astronauts will be traveling in your launch vehicle? What will they be doing?
- Will your launch vehicle be carrying any equipment? If so, what?
- How will the astronauts return to Earth? Will the astronauts return to Earth? Will the launch vehicle be designed for re-use?
What grade level is this for? Great question! This activity can be expanded for multiple age/grade/ability levels, examples are:
- Use materials to build a life-size rocket.
- Design and build a hand-held prototype.
- Build a scale-model that includes internal and external components.
- Build a launchable prototype.
Expand it: How can you bring in other content areas?
- Science: Will the astronauts be conducting any experiments? If so, what?
- Technology: How do astronauts communicate with Mission Control? How do they perform everyday functions in microgravity, including eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom?
- Engineering: How would you get your launch vehicle to the launch site? How would it launch?
- Art: Design a mission patch. Write a story about your launch vehicle; it could be about designing/building the launch vehicle, the purpose of the mission, or the mission itself.
- Mathematics: What are the measurements/dimensions of your launch vehicle? To what scale did you build your proto-type?
- Engineering design process video and poster from Teach Engineering: https://www.teachengineering.org/k12engineering/designprocess
- Free coding resources from Girls Who Code: https://girlswhocode.com/code-at-home/
- The National Association of Rocketry has put together instructions and videos on how to build rockets: https://www.nar.org/educational-resources/model-rocket-building-techniques/
- We can’t talk about launch vehicles without including NASA:
- And just for fun… some advice that may help us all, from the experts: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/an-astronaut-s-tips-for-living-in-space-or-anywhere