Engineering Design Process: On the Moon Educator Guide: Feel the Heat
A graphic showing a passive solar hot water heater

Featured Lesson(s)

Feel the Heat




Essential Question

What are the properties of a passive solar hot water heater that make it most effective?


People have been interested in the moon since they first realized it existed and, with the Apollo mission, NASA was able to send humans there. In discussions about the possibility of going back to the moon, questions about living there arise. What would people need to survive the moon's harsh environment? During this engineering design challenge, students will work to build a passive solar hot water heater that could help humans survive the harsh temperatures on the moon. This activity gives students the opportunity to tackle this real-world problem by following the eight steps of the engineering design process to create, test and redesign their water heaters.

Additional Resources

  Classroom Resources:


  • Videos for Students:
    • Defining the Problem: This video shows a teacher explaining the problem to his students -- the design of a water heater.
    • Select a Solution: This classroom excerpt shows the teacher and students brainstorming and selecting a solution that they will pursue.
    • Design and Test Solution: This video follows students as they design, build and test the solution they chose. Two teams get very different results.
    • Refining the Design: Once the teams have results of their testing, they rethink their designs and make improvements.
    • Classroom Discussion -- Wrap-up: We listen in on the classroom discussion as the two teams analyze their newest testing results and hypothesize on potential future improvements.
    • Classroom Preview: This music video gives a fast-paced overview of the entire activity.
    • NASA Connection for the Classroom: This video is a resource that teachers can use to describe the NASA Connection and to introduce the design challenge to the students.
    • LRO: This video describes the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and its mission in locating the best landing sites for long-term research on the moon. It introduces the importance of available natural resources like water ice, sunlight and certain minerals that can be used for manufacturing.
    • Repeatability: A fast-paced animated segment graphically explains the importance in the engineering design process of refining a design -- and reducing the possibility of failure.


  Related NASA Now Events:

  Connection to NASA:

Professional Development

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  Related Professional Development:

Lesson Information

Subject(s) Covered:

 Physical Science: • Heat transfer • Energy conversion • Electromagnetic spectrum

Grade Level:


Instructional Objective:

 Students design and build a passive solar hot water heating system and evaluate its effectiveness.

Time to Complete the Activity:

 1.5 to 2 hours

  Materials Needed:

Per student group

  • Aluminum foil.
  • Large sheet of cardboard (e.g., 11 x 17 inches [28 x 43 centimeters]).
  • Lamp with an indoor 100-watt floodlight light bulb (optional if using sunlight).
  • Black marker.
  • Black paper.
  • 2 paper cups (medium-sized).
  • 3 feet (0.9 meters) clear plastic tubing (outside diameter 1.25 inches [6 millimeters]).
  • Pitcher of water.
  • Ruler.
  • Scissors.
  • Straws.
  • Tape.
  • An indoor-outdoor digital thermometer that can read tenths of a degree.

   National Content Standards:



  • 21st Century Outcome: Learning and Innovation Skills
  • 21st Century Element: Creativity and Innovation
  • 21st Century Skills:
    • Implement innovations.
    • Think creatively.
    • Work creatively with others.
  • 21st Century Outcome: Learning and Innovation Skills
  • 21st Century Element: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • 21st Century Skills:
    • Make judgments and decisions.
    • Reason effectively.
    • Solve problems.


  • Science Content Area: Science and Technology
  • Science Standard: Abilities of Technological Design
  • Science Content Area: Physical Science
  • Science Standards:
    • Properties and changes of properties in matter.
    • Transfer of energy.


  • Technology Content Area: Design
  • Technology Standards:
    • Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.
    • Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.
    • Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.
  • Technology Content Area: Technology and Society
  • Technology Standard: Students will develop an understanding of the effects of technology on the environment.
  • Technology Content Area: Abilities for a Technological World
  • Technology Standard: Students will develop the abilities to apply the design process.