Which design features are most effective in transmitting the force of launching a 1-kilogram mass (rocket) by means of a lever without damaging the thrust structure, and what made the design features effective?
NASA engineers along with their partners in private industry design and develop launch vehicles to transport cargo, satellites, equipment and human explorers to space. This activity focuses on the Ares rocket, a prototype recently tested by NASA for carrying people and scientific experiments into space.
This Engineering Design Challenge connects students with the work of NASA engineers by engaging them in a similar design challenge of their own. With some simple and inexpensive materials, you, the teacher, can lead an exciting activity focusing on a specific problem that NASA engineers must solve and the process they use to solve it. During this activity, students design, build, test and revise their own solutions to problems that share fundamental science and engineering issues with the challenges facing NASA engineers.
The challenge is to build a model thrust structure (the portion of the structure that attaches the engine to the rest of the spacecraft) that is as light as possible, yet strong enough to withstand the load of a "launch to orbit" three times. Students first determine the amount of force needed to launch a model rocket to an altitude of 1 meter, which represents low Earth orbit. Then they design, build and test their own structure designs. They revise their designs over several design sessions, trying to maintain or increase the strength and reduce the weight of their structure. They document their designs with sketches and written descriptions. As a culmination, students compile their results onto a poster and present them to the class.
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