Space rover built like NASA’s
MUNCY – Just like the real thing, it was a big gamble to see if the space rovers designed and built by teams of 4th, 5th and sixth graders at Myers Elementary School while attending summer NASA innovation camp during the week of July 23. To land a rover by relying on air bags to cushion a bouncy touchdown is above a 10 in degree of difficulty according to engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory which is managing the two year mission for the real thing. Curiosity Rover was launched late Sunday evening and is heading for Mars to test organic microbial organisms.
However, it is not the accuracy or even the fact that the students’ lunar rovers will work. Rather it is the trial and error process and team work that brings them to their success explained student instructor, Mr. Woodrow Fry. They can keep going back to their respective teams and try another way. “It is a design challenge for them,” said co-instructor, Mrs. Edie Shull.
Thirty five students signed up for the NASA experience. Acting as engineers, each were put into groups of varying ages to create a lunar rover that will drop on the ‘moon’ and stay intact when it lands. “They learn about pay-load by using a plastic easter egg containing 5 grams of weight (5 pennies) and it can’t lose its cargo (the egg) when it lands, without taping or gluing the egg into the rover,” explained Shull who teaches biology and science at Muncy School District. The students could use two plastic soldiers for their astronauts. “We give them trial and error situations as in real NASA when dropping their rovers,” she added. Several skills are acquired and utilized during this process. According to the instructors, students learn measurement, design, conversion of units, and how to make calculations. There are some tough concepts. “These galaxies are in light years. It is hard to comprehend such as mass inertia and movement,” explained Shull.
Earlier in the week the students shared a working lunch and viewed rocket videos to see how NASA’s space engineers launched cargo and astronauts. Shull and Fry and volunteers worked with the students giving directions and explaining testings for their projects. They were able to experiment with landings outside the elementary building.
Some of the materials were provided by NASA, others by Muncy School District. Students brought in empty toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, egg cartons, cardboard boxes and old CD’s for spectroscopes. Tee shirts with the saying ‘Imagine It! Explore It! Do It! were available for them. Student leader, Angela Hammitt said she really liked going to the summer camp at Myers for the week. “I love it so far and will come again. I really liked building my bottle rocket and testing it. I improved my design. I love the tee-shirts too,” she said.
Both Fry and Shull attended Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland about three weeks ago to get the details to run the program here in Muncy. Engineering basics and consolidating rocketry were part of each day’s activities.This year’s theme is Deep Space. Last year it was the Solar System and two years ago it was Earth Observing Satellites. This is the third year with some of the students participating in all three years. Other teachers from other school districts such as East Lycoming and Williamsport also got to participate in NASA’s summer innovation camp for students.