STEM Explorer: Space & Engineering Day

Welcome to Science from Scientists’ STEM Explorer Camp!

Today your explorer received his/her own personal Science Notebook where data, drawings, and other information will be gathered during the week. STEM Explorers will take their notebooks home on the last day of camp.

Monday

We started the day with some fun exercises for the Explorers to get to know one other. Then we quickly moved on to our Day 1 theme of Space and Engineering.

The Earth, Sun and Moon

Today’s lesson focused on celestial mechanics, or the interactions between the Earth, Sun and Moon. We talked about the Moon, Earth’s only natural satellite.   STEM Explorers investigated the eight phases of the Moon and learned an easy mnemonic device “DOC” to help identify between the increasing (waxing) and fading (waning) sunlight on the moon. Also, STEM Explorers were able to differentiate between pictures of what the moon’s phases would look like from our view here on Earth versus what the moon’s phases would look like if we were in a satellite in space above the North Pole!

Using balls and flashlights as models, Explorers demonstrated the differences between solar and lunar eclipses.  Ask your STEM Explorer what phase the moon has to be in for a lunar or solar eclipse to occur.

Lunar Landing

Houston, we have a problem! Your team of astronauts was heading to the Moon for a routine mission when your landing went awry. All astronauts survived the emergency landing, but only some of your equipment did. Your team needs to travel 60 miles to reach Tranquility Base 2, our permanent moon station and where help and safety awaits. You have 14 items that survived the crash that you can use to make this journey. Which will you choose? Oxygen tanks? A heating unit? Matches? An inflatable life raft? Water?

This is the (imaginary but realistic) scenario that Explorers faced today in our STEM Explorer camp! They had to work as a team to place 14 objects in order of how valuable they would be to this trek across the Moon to safety. Teams were scored on their choices based on how closely their selections matched those of real NASA scientists. Ask your STEM Explorer if they survived the mission and what items proved to be most valuable to them!

Solar Systems & Planet Colonization Campaign

Each group of Explorers was assigned a planet and given fun facts about it.  They were then tasked with planning a campaign to convince the Interplanetary Committee (ie the other STEM Explorers) that their planet should be the next one chosen to colonize!  We enjoyed listening to each group present fun and creative arguments to support the colonization of their planet.

Rover Restraint—Mission to Mars

This week, STEM Explorers became NASA engineers as they designed landing gear for their Mars Rovers. Explorers thought about what challenges there are to landing a rover on Mars. We then presented the STEM Explorers with their mission: landing a raw egg “rover” on the surface of Mars (the floor). STEM Explorers defined the constraints – limiting factors – of their mission, for example – time, money, and materials. They also identified what would determine the winning group! Ask your STEM Explorer what rules they came up with in their class. All the teams’ engineering designs were very creative and, regardless of the outcome, the Explorers all had a “smashing” good time while practicing their teamwork, planning, budgeting, and engineering skills.

Want to learn more about exploring Mars, straight from the rover? Follow Curiosity, the Mars Rover that landed in 2012, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity

Wrap-up

At the end of the day, each Explorer received a Science from Scientists hat, a STEM tee shirt and a Space and Engineering Badge.  We look forward to another STEMtacular day tomorrow with your Explorer!

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