MISSION TO MARS

Stage 1: HOW DO WE GET THERE?


The main scientific concepts in this stage revolve around action and reaction forces, motion and speed.

Students begin designing test rockets using paper and tape and experiment with attaching their rockets to balloons and string to gage speed. They construct clinometers using protractors, string, and paper clips to judge height and angle, and then move on to test-launches of their rockets using Alka-Seltzer to look at force and then stomp rockets to combine speed, force and height to see whose rocket can land closest to Mars (represented by a red and white basketball).

In math class, the students are continuing the study of angles as they construct a huge tetrahedron using triangular shapes connected by straws.

All the while, students are making adjustments to their rockets based on what they’ve learned from each experiment and on the data they are collecting and recording in Logger Pro. Joy continues to challenge the students to “think like an engineer,”ask questions and make predictions about how their rockets will perform on each test - and then make changes to specific variables to affect the outcomes so that each concept builds on the other.

PHASE 1: BALLOON ROCKETS

Students tested rocket speed by constructing test rockets made of an inflated balloon and straw, and then seeing how quickly the force of air expelled by the balloon sent their rockets along a 3 meter length of string tied between two chairs. Through this experiment the concepts of action/reaction forces and calculating speed were introduced. After their initial try, teams were allowed to make a change to only one variable: type of string (fishing line, yarn or thinner kite string), size of balloon, or amount of air in the balloon, and could then try again. Speeds were recorded and logged in to the students’ laptops.

See a slideshow of balloon rocket photos at right-->

PHASE 2: CLINOMETERS

Students used homemade clinometers to learn how to measure height and angle. They practiced by finding the height of trees on school property. The clinometers were constructed by the students using protractors, string, and a binder clip attached to the end of the string as a counter-weight. The students would later use this instrument to measure the height of their rockets when launched.

See a slideshow of clinometer activity photos at right-->

PHASE 3: TETRAHEDRON

Students intensified their study of angles in math class by constructing a large tetrahedron that now resides in the school’s front entryway. The tetrahedron is made from colorful light-weight paper and straws that replicates a triangular shape across scale and dimension.

See a slideshow of tetrahedron photos at right-->

PHASE 4: ALKA SELTZER ROCKETS

By combining water and Alka Seltzer in different proportions, students tested the effect of different levels of force on how high their rockets launched. Each team was given the same number of Alka Seltzer tablets and they could decide how to allocate those resources to the tests. By combining Alka Seltzer with water in a small, plastic film container, and placing their rockets on the top of the container, the pressure would build inside the container until the top popped off and launched the rocket. Joy was there to measure the height of the liftoff with a meter stick.

See a slideshow of Alka Seltzer rocket photos at right-->

PHASE 5: STOMP ROCKETS

The Stomp Rocket experiment combined what the students had learned about speed, force, height and distance as each team used a stomp launcher to see who could get the highest launch and land closest to Mars (represented by a red and white basketball). The launch mechanism was constructed from PVC pipe and an empty 2-liter soda bottle that the students stomped on to propel the rockets with air. They could adjust the angle at which the rocket launched using their homemade clinometers to measure the angle of the pipe on which the rockets were placed. Two meters of blue tape was placed on the wall parallel to the rocket’s path to help give scale to the measurements, and each launch was videotaped so that the highest point of the rocket’s trajectory could be measured. Once each launch was completed, the teams measured the distance between their landing site and Mars.

See a slideshow of stomp rocket photos at right-->

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