What if I told you that my middle school students launched two experiments to space this summer. No engineering degree or NASA credentials required! If you are teacher, and dream about going to space, this is a pretty cool accomplishment! I helped make this happen by participating in a very unique program called Cubes in Space.
The Cubes in Space program is a free, no-cost opportunity to design experiments to be launching into space on a NASA rocket or high-altitude balloon. This is a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) based global education program, enabling kids to learn about space exploration utilizing innovative problem-solving, inquiry-based learning methods. By participating in this program, students and educators are provided with engaging content and activities in preparation for the design and development of an experiment to be integrated into a small cube.
Teachers sign up for the program between late September and early January. They then have access to a wealth of curriculum divided into four phases. Each phase coaches the teacher and their students along from inquiry to research to proposal. Every activity within a phase has a purpose, for example the below screen shot is from the first activity where students are encouraged to brainstorm questions they have of the program.
Brainstorming questions is a necessary first step in the design thinking process. The students will discover the answers as the curriculum develops.
Phase 2 and 3 introduce the rocket and high-altitude balloon logistics and how they are used as vehicles for flight within the program. Students learn about quantitative versus qualitative data, manipulated variables, interpretation of graphics, the definition of a payload and the limitations experienced in the program.
In the final phase, students begin to write their proposals. This is a daunting task and students learn first-hand how much time and research is involved when designing an experiment worthy of flight.
There is always a risk that your students will not be selected; I warned my students of this. Fortunately we were selected for both the sounding rocket and the high altitude balloon launches. Payloads are returned rather quickly after flight and analysis begins. This program brings real-world experiential science to the classroom. My students felt a sense of accomplishment from all of their hard work and now had something amazing to brag about. Fingers crossed for the 2017 group!
For more information on the Cubes in Space program visit www.cubesinspace.com
Thanks for reading!