Roberts Students Showcase STEM Skills in NASA Challenge
Published on 6/16/21
District News Roberts preK-8 School
What’s the best design for a parachute to land a spacecraft on Mars?
Three fifth graders from Roberts – Aubrey Haggerty, Essence Fry and Avery Sauer – have some ideas. Through the U.S. Department of Education’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Grant Program, and in collaboration with NASA scientists and engineers, the students chose to answer this question by using the engineering design process.
As part of their ‘Mission to Mars’ challenge, their objective was to create a drag device. Because spacecrafts travel at extremely high speeds, they need some sort of drag device to slow them down to prevent them from crashing into the planet and becoming damaged. The students were tasked with working within the limits (or constraints) of mass and weight to successfully accomplish their mission. They had to complete multiple investigations to gather research to solve their problem and prove that they completed each step of the engineering design process. At the end of their research, they were selected as one of just two groups in the state to present their findings virtually!
“They learned a lot about persevering through tough work,” 5th grade teacher Emily Wood explained. “With no one there to 'help' them physically [students collaborated virtually for this project], they had to rely on communication and referring back to the engineering design process! These students truly exceeded any expectations for the project. They had to overcome learning and testing their project with minimal materials, no physical support and had to rely completely on developed communication skills over Teams. They completed their project successfully with great perseverance. I could not have been proud of the way they showed leadership and ran their team.”
Ms. Wood added that the group’s skills were on full display during their presentation as well.
“As for the showcase, they prepared and did a fantastic job presenting their work and answering questions,” she said. “They all showed knowledge of the engineering design process and were able to speak to that knowledge independently as this was THEIR team. Nerves aside, as this was their first presentation for them all, they spoke confidently and were a great representation of our SCSD community. I am excited to see where these future engineers, mathematicians and scientists go as they continue their learning journey!”
The students met virtually for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday for several months, even over school breaks, to prepare for this challenge. But they said despite the time commitment, it was worth the effort they put in.
“I like space and robots and building stuff, so I wanted to do something like this,” Avery said. “It was fun and exciting. It took us a while – we had to research and experiment and figure out what materials would be best for us to use. We had to get the perfect sizing for both the parachute and the strings. I got annoyed a lot because I don’t have a lot of patience, but this really helped me get better at being patient. I also learned to speak up instead of just using my voice quietly!”
“I have always liked space, building things and being creative,” Aubrey explained. “Testing our models was my favorite part! But we had to be on time and consistent, and we also had to learn different methods without others helping us in person, which was hard. I was really nervous about presenting, but I learned that it actually wasn’t that scary and that I had my teammates to help me.”
Congratulations to these committed students for building their STEM skills and representing Roberts on a national stage!