Math, Science and Technology STEM Activities and Lessons from NASA

Math, Science and Technology STEM Activities and Lessons from NASA

NASA CONNECT is an inquiry-based and standards-based, Emmy award-winning series of mathematics-focused, science and technology STEM instructional activity lessons for students in grades 6-8, and also applicable to high schoolers. Each lesson series contains a 30-minute instructional video, a companion lesson and activity guide. They establish a connection between mathematics, science, and technology concepts and those used every day by NASA researchers. The lesson guides each present one or more hands-on activities to teach and reinforce the lesson’s objectives, while the videos provide a thorough overview of them. All lesson files are in pdf format, and videos are mp4. For additional STEM learning materials please see Engineering Lessons, Activities and Textbook for Middle and High Schoolers and 75 Earth Science & Climate Lessons, Activities & Learning Videos.

Breaking Barriers – Solving Linear Equations

In this hands-on activity, students make and launch a Balloon X-1 aircraft. They collect a variety of data, including the angle of the launch path and the time and distance the aircraft travels. The data sets are used to calculate the average speed of the balloon. The average speeds are then graphed and students look for patterns that could be used to make predictions about the speed of their aircraft over a greater distance. Here is the lesson video: Breaking Barriers – Solving Linear Equations (198 mb), and here is a short video of a Plane Breaking the Sound Barrier (1.7mb).

Rocket to the Stars

In Rocket to the Stars, students will learn the basic science concepts of work and energy and see how algebra can be used to help explain both concepts. NASA is working on new ways of powering spacecraft that will reduce the travel time to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Students will be introduced to two cutting edge innovative propulsion technology programs, Prometheus and VASIMR, that will allow crewed and uncrewed vehicles to explore the distant reaches of the solar system. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Answers are included. Here is the lesson video for Rocket to the Stars (198 mb).

Astrobiology Math

This collection of activities is based on a weekly series of space science problems intended for students looking for additional challenges in the math and physical science curriculum in grades 6 through 12. The problems were created to be authentic glimpses of modern science and engineering issues, often involving actual research data. Includes an answer key.

Ancient Observatories Timeless Knowledge

Students will learn how cultures from ancient times to the present have used the Sun and other objects in the sky to mark the passage of time. They will see how archaeoastronomers use ancient observatories to predict seasons and special events. Using simple tools of geometry and the angle bisector method, students will measure the movement of the Sun and find solar noon for their location. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Answers are included. Here is the Ancient Observatories Timeless Knowledge video (200 mb) for this lesson.

The ‘A’ Train Express

Students will learn how weather affects everyone’s daily lives. Students will see national and international scientists using satellite technology to help improve weather forecasting and our understanding of aerosols and clouds. They will also be introduced to two NASA satellite Earth Science missions, CALIPSO and CloudSat. By conducting inquiry based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Here is the The ‘A’ Train Express lesson video (199 mb).

Algebra – Mirror Mirror on the Universe

In Algebra: Mirror, Mirror on the Universe, students will discover how algebra and telescopes are used in space exploration and why optics, which is the study of light, is important in astronomy. Students will learn about the Hubble Space Telescope, Hubble Deep Field, and how NASA engineers use algebra to determine the effects of contamination on Hubble’s optics. They will also see how NASA engineers are developing the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) with the challenge of making bigger instruments with ultralight-weight materials able to protect NGST’s optics from the heat of the Sun. By participating in the classroom activity, students will gain insight into the concept of the expanding universe. Here is the video, Algebra – Mirror Mirror on the Universe (198 mb) for this lesson.

Better Health from Space to Earth

Students will learn about the importance of good nutrition and exercise. They will investigate what we can learn in space about our bodies here on Earth. Students will see how researchers and scientists apply the mathematics concepts of measurement and estimation to study the loss of calcium in bones and the loss of muscle mass while astronauts are living and working in space. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Here is the Nutrition and Exercise Challenge for this lesson, and the lesson’s video is Better Health from Space to Earth (199 mb).

Functions and Statistics – Dressed for Space

Students will learn about the past, present, and future space suits that astronauts wear. They will learn how the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space suits were developed. Students will also learn why sizing a space suit is critical for astronauts working in space. They will also be introduced to three advanced space suit prototypes: the H-Suit, ISuit, and D-Suit. Students will observe NASA researchers using functions and statistics to determine sizing and performance characteristics. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Lesson video is Functions and Statistics – Dressed for Space (198 mb).

Opening Space for Next Generation Explorers

Students will experience the dynamic skills and processes needed to design the next generation of launch vehicles. They will see how mathematics, science, and technology work together to improve human space flight, with increased safety and economy. Students will get an exciting “hands on” feel for the challenges facing the designers of tomorrow’s launch systems and a greater appreciation for the accomplishments of the past. By conducting hands-on and Instructional Technology Activity, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers provided. Lesson video is Opening Space for Next Generation Explorers (199 mb).

Eclipse Path of Totality – Measuring Angular Size and Distance

Students learn about the natural phenomena that create a total eclipse. Students also explore the history, mythology, science, and math that relate to these amazing events. NASA scientists and engineers introduce a satellite where scientists make artificial eclipses in order to learn more about the Sun’s corona. Using hands-on lessons, web-based activities, and simple tools, students will measure the angular size and predict the angular distance of objects in the sky. Here is the lesson video: Eclipse Path of Totality – Measuring Angular Size and Distance (199 mb).

Geometry and Algebra – The Future Flight Equation

Students will learn how NASA engineers develop experimental aircraft. They will learn about the Hyper-X Research Vehicle, an experimental plane that uses scramjet engine technology to propel itself to ten times the speed of sound. Students will understand how the Hyper-X is part of the Future Flight Equation. They will observe NASA engineers using geometry and algebra when they measure and design models to be tested in wind tunnels. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers included. Here is the lesson video: Geometry and Algebra – The Future Flight Equation (214 mb).

Good Stress Guide – Building Better Muscles and Bones

Students will learn about the importance of building and maintaining better muscles and bones. They will learn that all stresses in life are not “bad.” In fact, the body needs “good” stresses, like exercise, to be healthy. Students will see how scientists and researchers collect and analyze physiological data to understand how muscle and bones are constantly changing, especially in a microgravity environment. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Lesson video is here: Good Stress Guide Building Better Muscles and Bones (196 mb).

Landscape Archaeology – Hidden Treasures

Students will learn how researchers and scientists use data collected through remote sensing to study hidden features on the Earth’s surface and from ancient cultures. Using the coordinate plane and ordered pairs, students will map the surface of a “mystery planet” landscape and make predictions about it. Students will see how archaeologists are trying to solve current world problems by looking at clues from the past. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Lesson video is here: Landscape Archaeology – Hidden Treasures (191 mb).

Measurement, Ratios and Graphing – Safety First

Students will learn about NASA’s Aviation Safety Program and how engineers are testing aircraft at extreme angles in wind tunnels to make sure they remain a safe form of transportation for all future air travelers. They will also learn about NASA FutureFlight Central, a virtual facility that simulates our nation’s airports in real time, allowing air traffic controllers, pilots, and airport personnel to interact with each other and test new technologies. Students will observe NASA engineers using mathematics to predict airplane behavior and to analyze data. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers provided. Lesson video is here: Measurement, Ratios and Graphing – Safety First (199 mb).

Measurement, Ratios, and Graphing – Who Added the ‘Micro’ to Gravity?

Students will learn about microgravity. They will be introduced to combustion science and the importance of fire safety on the International Space Station. Students will also learn how chemistry plays an important role in microgravity research. They will observe NASA engineers and scientists using measurement, ratios, and graphing to analyze data. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers provided. Lesson video is Who Added the ‘Micro’ to Gravity (199 mb). Also, a short video for this lesson is Who Added the ‘Micro’ to Gravity – The Laws of Gravity (5.5 mb).

Data Analysis and Measurement – Dancing in the Night Sky

Students will learn about the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. They will learn the many legends and myths that have revolved around the aurora throughout the history of mankind. Students will also discover how NASA scientists and engineers use satellite technology to measure and analyze aurora data. They will see how Norwegian scientists apply the concepts of data analysis and measurement to study the Northern Lights by usingground-based instruments and sounding rockets. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers provided. Here is the lesso video: Data Analysis and Measurement – Dancing in the Night Sky (199 mb). Also, here is the Globe Toolkit (1.1mb) for the extension on page 13.

Proportionality – The X-Plane Generation

Students are introduced to the scale model as an engineering tool by using NASA’s experimental aircraft, the X-33, as an example. Students may be familiar with scale models from toys, building kits, or from playing with dolls and dollhouses. This episode of NASA CONNECT focuses on the math concepts of computation, estimation, ratios, and measurement and illustrates a systematic scientific investigation. Students will meet NASA researchers and other professionals who will (a) describe the relationship between force, energy, and motion; (b) discuss how NASA’s experimental X-plane is being tested to make space travel more reliable; (c) show students how proportionality and ratios are used to make scale models of spacecraft like the X-33; and (d) describe how scale models are more manageable than full-scale models when it comes to testing and retesting their designs. The video for this lesson is Proportionality – The-X-Plane-Generation (198 mb).

The Right Ratio of Rest – Proportional Reasoning

Students learn about the human circadian clock and how it affects peoples’ daily lives. Students see how NASA scientists are studying the circadian timing system to improve astronaut’s physical and mental tasks while working in space. Conducting research to help astronauts sleep better in space also helps people on Earth with similar problems. The hands-on activity in this guide allows students to demonstrate how fractions, decimals, and percents are related and further develop their proportional reasoning skills. Video for this lesson is here: The Right Ratio of Rest – Proportional Reasoning (198 mb).

Data Analysis and Measurement – Having a Solar Blast!

Students will learn how NASA researchers study the Sun. They will learn how satellite technology plays a pivotal role in helping NASA researchers understand the Sun-Earth connection. Students will learn about three current satellites that monitor the Sun: SOHO, ACE, and IMAGE. They will also receive information about HESSI, a satellite that will study solar flares. Students will observe NASA researchers using data analysis and measurement to determine the solar cycle of the Sun. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers provided. Lesson video is Data Analysis and Measurement – Having a Solar Blast (191 mb).

Team Extreme – The Statistics of Success

Students learn about the teamwork involved in a successful mission and the importance of statistics in project design and management. Using the video component and a hands-on lesson, students develop an understanding of statistical analysis and how people use statistics, such as mean, median, mode, and range, to make decisions. Members of the Penske Racing Team and engineers from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne help students investigate the relationship between work, energy, and power as they look at race car design; the Space Shuttle; and NASA’s most extreme machine, the International Space Station. The lesson video is here: Team Extreme – The Statistics of Success (198 mb).

Venus Transit

Students will learn about the importance of using scale models to represent the size and distance of objects in the solar system and beyond. They will be introduced to the astronomical unit (AU), the baseline distance from the Earth to the Sun, which astronomers use to determine the relative distances from the Earth to other planets, stars, asteroids, and objects in space. They will also
discover fascinating facts about the Venus Transit, a celestial and historical event, which helped astronomers determine the scale of the solar system. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Here is the lesson video: Venus Transit (199 mb). Also, here are powerpoint examples of students’ lesson work: Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Virtual Earth

Students will be introduced to Earth system science. They will learn what a system is and how to apply the concept of systems to learn more about how the Earth functions. Students will understand the only way to really comprehend the workings of our planet is to look at the Earth as a whole system. They will also focus on Earth science applications of national priority to expand and accelerate the use of knowledge, science, and technologies resulting from the Earth Science Enterprise mission of improving predictions in weather, climate, and natural hazards. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Here is the video for Virtual Earth (198 mb).

Problem Solving – The ‘Wright’ Math

Students will learn about the evolution of flight. They will learn how the Wright Brothers became the first human beings to successfully design, construct, and fly an airplane. Students will learn the method the Wright Brothers used in designing their airplane. They will also be introduced to NASA’s Morphing Project, a radically new approach to designing aircraft of the future. They will observe NASA researchers using problem-solving techniques to design wings that will change their shape during flight. By conducting hands-on and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Suggested answers included. Lesson video is here: Problem Solving – The ‘Wright’ Math. Also, a Kite Activity is included as a learning activity.

PSA – The Astronaut’s Helper

Students will learn about different types of robots and will also be introduced to the Personal Satellite Assistant (PSA), a small, spherical robot that will assist each astronaut with chores on space-based vehicles. Students will learn about the PSA’s mechanical systems, which must work together so that it will function properly. In the web activity, students interact with a PSA simulation and learn how forces affect motion in a low-friction, microgravity environment. They discover that scientists need to shrink the PSA, and they engage in a hands-on activity to find the maximum surface area of a computer component that will fit into a smaller PSA. By conducting inquiry-based and web activities, students will make connections between NASA research and the mathematics, science, and technology they learn in their classrooms. Here is the lesson video: PSA – The Astronauts Helper (198 mb).

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