Tag Archives: science

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 www.cubesinspace.com

Thanks for reading!


Sounding rocket launch from June 2016



Augmented Reality in the Science Classroom

Check out this VIDEO of Augmented Reality in the Science Classroom!

I just finished week one of the new school year.  What an exciting four days!

Thanks to the ISTE Conference and a series of new connections, this summer was an inspiration.   Armed with too many new ideas to implement and a slew of new technologies, I jumped in, iPad first.  My new eighth-graders had never used iPads in the classroom, but based on their enthusiasm for technology, I knew anything I threw at them would be a huge hit!   I decided to go big and introduced them to augmented reality right from the start.  To say they were “impressed” is an understatement!

If you haven’t heard about the augmented reality app Aurasma, get ready because it will blow your mind.  Aurasma uses augmented reality to make 2 dimensional images come to life.  This simple-to-use app allows users to create “auras” or video overlays.  Pass a device like an iPad, smartphone, or android tablet over the still image you have “augmented” and video springs to life.

Click here for link

Click here for link

APPLICATION: Week 1 every year is spent teaching students about laboratory safety procedures and equipment.  I typically spend a full day talking about the exit procedures, fire extinguishers, calling for help, chemical safety and laboratory equipment/uses.  I repeat this 4 times throughout the day!  This year, I decided to put Aurasma to the test and augment the whole lesson.

Augmenting the process proved to be simple.  First, I created short videos about each piece of lab equipment, and dress code and emergency procedures.   Because the transfer process was easier, I stored the videos on my iPad.  To launch the videos, I initially tried to set the “trigger image” as the 3D piece of lab equipment but quickly realized that this didn’t work.  Instead, I printed and posted 2D pictures in front of the 3D objects.  Students could then scan the 2D more reliably.

A student uses the iPad to scan an image that brings an informational video to life.

A student uses the iPad to scan an image that brings an informational video to life.

On the day that I rolled out the new lesson,  the students were so excited.  I prepared them to bring ear buds knowing that each student would be on a different video and the noise would be hard for them to concentrate.  You could hear a pin drop as the students made their way around my room, taking notes on the equipment at their own pace.  The augmented photos and equipment remained out for the rest of the week to aid students who did not finish or wanted to hear the information a second time prior to the quiz.

Augmented trigger pictures were placed next to the physical equipment throughout the room.

Augmented trigger pictures were placed next to the physical equipment throughout the room.

PROCESS: While the process was smooth overall, here are a few valuable lessons I learned along the way.

  1. All of your students iPads must be following your Aurasma channel or they will not be able to pick up the Auras.
  2. Your “triggers” should be a picture or something 2-D that can not be altered. 3D lab equipment and people’s faces did not work reliably.  The 2D pictures that I printed and posted in front of the equipment were much more reliable.
  3. Limit video length.  Aurasma does not like videos over 4 minutes in length.  To make note taking easier on students, keep the videos concise.  Unless you change the setting, videos are typically played in a loop.
  4. Moving the iPad away from the target object will stop the video making note-taking near impossible.  Trick:  Once the target object triggers the video, double tap the screen to lock the video in place.  The iPad can be repositioned and/or set down while still playing the video .

RESULT: I was very pleased with the lesson and Aurasma.  Students picked up the content quickly and at their own pace.  Students were so enamored, many have inquired as to how they can make their own auras at home.

Based on the initial success and engagement, I plan on augmenting the periodic table as well as other things in the classroom this year!