Sample of NASA Engineering Activities for 9-12

Created by Sandra Weeks Last updated 5/14/2014

Explore my sampler of fun and educational engineering activities for students in grades 9-12 from the Wavelength collection. Want more? Try the following keyword searches in Wavelength: "Design" or "Build" to find activities about spacecraft design; "Engineering" or "Design Challenge" for activities that incorporate engineering activities, or browse "High School Education" and refine your search by categories like the design process, engineering, and lesson plans.

  • Marsbound! Mission to the Red Planet

    Students play a card game to design a mission to Mars. Models good engineering practices through the use of collaboration and problem-solving skills to develop a mission that meets constraints (budget, mass, power) and criteria (significant science return).
    AAAS Benchmarks: , , 3A/M2
  • Comparing Cosmic Cameras

    The images of comet Tempel 1 were taken by two different spacecraft with three different cameras - this lesson helps students understand the differences between the returned images by getting them thinking about the cameras involved and ultimately how cameras take close-up pictures of far away objects.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 12C/M7
  • Can you hear Me Now? Communicating with Spacecraft

    Have you ever considered the design process of the computer programs used to communicate with spacecraft? Here's a nifty lesson where students examine how the use of flowcharts can help make computer programs error-free and efficient, in this way making the spacecraft more reliable. Then they investigate how data can be compressed for transmission over limited bandwidth. By the end of the lesson, the students come to realize that the wealth of data gathered by spacecraft is useless if it cannot be transmitted safely and efficiently to the scientists on the Earth.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 8E/M1, 12D/E2, 12D/P3
  • We Need a Push?

    In a role-reversal from the typical science classroom, this lesson shows the vial connection between the science supporting the design and operation of an ion propulsion engine. Students will study the concepts of formation and discharge of charged particles, attractive and repulsive forces between charged particles, and the properties of ions in the plasma phase.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4D/M3cd, 4G/M5, 4G/H3, 4G/H4ab, 12D/H6
  • Design an Ion Engine

    What a gem that shows the dance between engineering and science at its finest. This lesson discusses the design and operation of an ion propulsion engine. Learners will study the essential components and variables of an ion propulsion system. Activities include an on-line ion propulsion engine simulation and design. Included are changes in energy and fuel consumption as a result of variable changes (dependent/independent variable relationships).
    AAAS Benchmarks: 4G/M5, 12C/M5
  • The Relationship Between Science and Technology

    In this activity, students will learn how technology can help scientists solve a problem. One of the challenges scientists face with any spacecraft is attitude control. Students will be introduced to the problem of attitude control in space through an experiment using angular momentum, and experience two different ways scientists address this problem. Students begin by discussing the technology(ies) that powers satellites and enable(s) them to move through space. Students then engage in an angular momentum experiment. Estimated cost of this activity does not include the cost of the bicycle wheel for the angular momentum experiment.
    AAAS Benchmarks: 3A/M2, 3A/E2