“No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” – Voltaire
Fifth graders applying their know-how of when something is disassembled it should (in theory) weigh the same as when in one piece. We borrowed a NASA activity, tweeked it a bit to tie in this standard with the objective of building a satellite. We used Legos, with each style representing a specific instrument provided the NASA list. In case you are wondering, the answer is an emphatic yes. Yes I weighed every Lego piece/style to the tenth of a gram. #Ihavenolife
Moving forward: Here is how the spiel went . . .
“By now you’ve learned the weight of an object is equal to the weight of the sum of its parts. This is true in all closed systems. So let’s apply your knowledge of this skill to build a satellite. Each part of a satellite has a specific job, and some satellites have different jobs than others. Some are used to take photos, some satellites measure gravity, some measure temperature, and there are even satellites that scan a planet’s land formations. In fact, there are way more instruments built on satellites for many other jobs not mentioned . . . yet. One thing all human made satellites have in common, is that they are made up of different instruments (pieces) that all weigh different amounts, and all of these parts need power.”
First students watched two clips provided by NASA, then journaled responses:
Video 1 – Why is a good idea not enough to build a satellite?
Video 2 – What obstacles do you need to consider before building your satellite?
Next they create a team of four people. Their job as a team is to . . .
1. share your notes from the two videos.
2. decide what you want your satellite to do.
3. make sure everyone is included and involved in this mission.
4. develop a team name.
Notes in google classroom before moving ahead (STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP: Before you can proceed, you will need a teacher’s signature next to your notes.)
“The instruments (pieces) of a satellite not only have different jobs, but they weigh different amounts too. After deciding on the type of satellite, your team will design the satellite using Legos. “
Rules (Part 1): Refer to the Satellite Instrument Data Table. This sheet will guide you on what the different instruments are called, what they do, how much they weigh, and how much power they require.
Your team’s satellite can have . . .
a.) no more than 4 instruments.
b.) be able to fit inside the space capsule.
c.) AND once assembled, the satellite must weigh between 15-21 grams.
“You will each record the instruments you intend to use to build the satellite, include the weight of each piece, and once you pick up the pieces, sketch two views of your constructed satellite (refer to the sheet provided to you). You can weigh pieces individually. You are not allowed to assemble the satellite until after your sketches have been approved by a teacher.”
Rules (Part 2): After sketches have been approved, you will use gloves to assemble your satellite. This represents how astronauts fix and operate on satellites while in space. Each teammate will have a turn at assembly or reassembling the satellite. Weigh the satellite and compare it to your recorded data.
Rules (Part 3): Shake Test. Place your satellite inside the space capsule (Styrofoam cups) and shake the capsule rapidly for 30 seconds. Take the satellite out of the capsule and see if your satellite made it in one piece. If not this is the time to modify your satellite and retest.
*If time permits, review another team’s design and complete the steps on the Quality Assurance Form.
We finish off like most activities, where student feedback is key.
- What did you like or dislike about this activity?
- Explain why.
- How would you change this activity to make it better?
- What is something you wish you could have done?