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NASA Space Spinoff Contest

NASA tech innovation posterNASA’s second annual OPSPARC Challenge asks students in grades 3 to 12 to identify everyday items that were first developed for a space mission and then imagine a new humanitarian purpose for that technology. Deadline for submission is February 10, 2017.

That question lies at the heart of NASA’s Optimus Prime Spinoff and Research Challenge, a contest that asks students in grades 3 to 12 to identify and dream up a new purpose for technology first developed for a space mission.

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Naked Egg Drop

egg yolk droppingParis of students in grades 3 to 6 experience the engineering design process by building and modifying devices to catch and protect a “naked” egg as it is dropped from increasing heights. The activity scales up to district or regional egg drop competitions.

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Build a Better Candy Bag

bag of candy cornIn this activity, students in grades 3 to 12 learn how design differences can affect the success of a final product by working in pairs to evaluate, design, and build a better candy bag. They must predict the volume and strength of their designs, test and redesign the bag based on its ability to hold weight, discuss findings, and share results.

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Disaster-Proof Housing

storm damaged house illustrationIn this activity for middle school science, high school physics, or engineering, groups of students explore the housing crisis caused by natural disasters by applying appropriate technology and fluid mechanics to design sustainable shelters that can withstand flooding and high winds.

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Build a Bobsled Racer

bobsled on track Teams of students in grades 3 to 8 learn about friction, forces, and the engineering design process by building and testing miniature bobsleds to see which can race down an icy slope either the fastest or slowest.

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Lesson: No Valve in Vain

heart beatIn this activity, teams of students in grades 6 to 8 will learn about the engineering design process and how a one-way valve works by creating heart valves from tape, plastic tubing, and other materials.

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Lesson: Snack Attack – Food Packaging

cookies in boxIn this activity, teams of middle school students explore the engineering design process and materials used to package food by designing and testing a package for a snack. The goal is for students to understand the basic engineering involved in designing food packaging.

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Lesson: Dance Pad Mania

dance pad revolutionIn this lesson, pairs of students in grades 4 to 7 will learn about the engineering design process and electrical circuits by building a dance pad that sounds a buzzer or flashes a light when stepped on.

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The Engineering Design Process

design processSafer highways. Cool phone apps. Green buildings. Thrilling roller coasters. What do all these things have in common? All bear the stamp of engineering design – a process of brainstorming, building, testing, and refining to create a product, service, or system within time or resource limits.

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