Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

The ITEA-NASA STS-118 Design Challenges

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

The ITEA-NASA STS-118 Design Challenges

Article excerpt

In conjunction with the August 8, 2007 launch of STS-118, ITEA and NASA recently debuted STS-118 Design Challenges. These challenges are available for elementary, middle, and high school and revolve around a lunar plant growth chamber to help supplement the diet of astronauts while living and working on the moon, as well as provide as sense of "home." The Design Challenges include lessons, student and teacher resources, assessments, and materials lists. Moreover, the units integrate with the ITEA model program for technological literacy known as Engineering by Design[TM].

General Tips for Teachers

First, know that these design challenges were written by teachers, reviewed by teachers, and piloted by teachers who are in the classroom every day. As when preparing to teach any new content, teachers will benefit from doing some basic research, although it is not a requirement. For example, teachers may want to familiarize themselves with U.S. Vision for Space Exploration. (The NASA video resource, Ares: The Power to Explore the Moon, Mars and Beyond, is a valuable resource and is included on the ITEA CD available by calling 703-860-2100). Additionally, teachers may want to spend some time exploring such topics as the moon, the STS-118 mission, and plant growth requirements. Teachers will certainly want to review the design challenges themselves, including the student and teacher resources provided, and determine what supplies are available. (Note that every lesson includes a "snapshot" page that can be used as a valuable reference tool for teachers when they are actually in the classroom.) And finally, student safety is always a primary concern, so you may want to spend some time deciding what tools students will use and how they will use them safely. You may wish to contact another teacher in your school or district who uses tools with students on a regular basis--a technology education teacher, for example. Such partnerships can provide access to additional resources or even an opportunity to team teach.

But most importantly, know that no special skills or knowledge are required, and the units are designed to be flexible enough to be adapted to your needs and those of your students. Any motivated science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) teacher or team of teachers can implement this design challenge in the classroom.

While specific suggestions for teacher preparation are provided throughout the Design Challenge units, following are some general suggestions organized by (but not limited to) grade band.

Tips for the Elementary Design Challenge

A great many student resource materials are provided in the elementary unit--many more than in the middle and high school units. Students will need copies of these resources. Beyond the basic supplies and materials, the options for increasing student excitement and interest are many--will you create a NASA materials store window with curtains and an Open/Closed sign? Do you have the resources to provide students with hard hats to make them feel like they are "on the job?" Use your imagination and encourage your students to use theirs!

Tips for the Middle School Design Challenge

Internet access is required to enable student research. Besides providing basic supplies and materials--including copies of the student resources--teachers may choose to consider modeling with their students. One important point students learn in the middle school challenge is that there is no perfect design--there are many options. Feel free to be inspired by your students and, in turn, to inspire them to new heights.

Tips for the High School Design Challenge

Internet access is required to enable student research. The high school challenge is more open-ended than the middle school and elementary school challenges, as it requires the students themselves to help "create" additional criteria and constraints based upon the choices they make. …

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