Student Experiments in Space


High altitude balloon launch from September 2016

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.

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.   Activity A screenshot

Brainstorming questions is a necessary first step in the design thinking process.  The students will discover the answers as the curriculum develops.


Students use time to research topics such as forces of flight and structural make-up of the material they want to test.

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. temperature and pressure diagram

payload rocket

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.


Students CAD a container and 3-D print it to contain their experiment during flight.



Students make the necessary measurements before submission.


Careful calculations are made to stay within guidelines.


Control experiments are preformed and recorded for comparison after launch.



Size of cube that fits the experiment.

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

Thanks for reading!


Sounding rocket launch from June 2016


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