Gaining Traction on Mars – Engineering Design Challenge Overview

Gaining Traction on Mars – Engineering Design Challenge Overview


The students you work with today
are the scientists, technicians, engineers, and mathematicians
of tomorrow. Creativity, curiosity,
analytical thinking and the ability to successfully
utilize the engineering design process are characteristics
and skills necessary for NASA”s future workforce. Engineering Design Challenges, create authentic learning
experiences that allow students to develop these skills through
rigorous and engaging Science, Technology, Engineering,
and Mathematics content. The NASA Engineering Design
Challenge “Gaining Traction on Mars” serves as an authentic
standards-based investigation into a real scientific
and engineering problem. It includes a main
challenge problem and four lead-up investigations
that explore the interactions between materials,
electromagnetic forces, and the engineering
design process. The investigations and
challenge problem are designed to be used sequentially;
however, each can be used as a single standalone activity. The lead-up investigations take
approximately 45 minutes each to complete. The challenge problem can
be implemented in as little as one week, but can
continue open-endedly as your students test and
improve their designs. Investigation 1 –
“Racing Against Friction”, Students will test materials
for the effects of friction. Investigation 2 –
“Stacked for Power”, Students will build a battery
and measure its output. Investigation 3 –
“Charged Attraction”, Students will build
an electromagnet and measure its attractive
capabilities. Investigation 4 –
“Fine Motor Skills”, Students will build an
electromagnetic motor and measure its efficacy
in terms of rotations per minute
(RPMs) Students will work in engineering design
teams to create and test various wheel designs
and materials on a test vehicle to determine which
are most effective on a simulated Martian surface. Students will build a standard
vehicle as a means to design and test wheels that
achieve traction on a simulated Mars environment. The vehicle will be
placed in the test bed with the back wheels touching
the wall and activated. It will then be timed until
it touches the opposite wall with the front wheels. A successful solution
will have the fastest time and the least amount
of wheel damage. Bonus points will be
awarded for any design that can also climb the test bed at an inclined angle
determined by the team. Students will provide
evidence of their understanding of the engineering
design process by evaluating design solutions and determining how well their
designs meet the constraints of the problem. Formative and Summative
assessment tools have been provided in the Facilitators
Guide to assist in determining what
students know prior to and after participating in the
Engineering Design Challenge. NASA designed this
challenge with both you and your students in mind. It includes simple explanations of relevant background
information, clear step-by-step
instructions of each process, reflective student data
sheets, and concise rubrics for evaluation of
student performance. NASA supports educators
and facilitators, like you, who play a key role in
preparing students for careers in STEM fields through
engaging content. Thank you for helping us to share this learning
experience with your students. For complete information
on “Gaining Traction on Mars” please visit
the Engineering Design Challenge website.

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