Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What will students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Students will analyze the problems involved in solving complex problems while working collaboratively in a group.
- Students will use a 3D printer to design a lander that will protect an egg from a drop simulating what it might encounter on Mars.
- Students will design a parachute that will slow down the landing as much as possible.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
Students should be familiar with the process of science inquiry, where students ask questions, formulate a plan, control variables, and then analyze their results.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
How can you design a 3D-printed object that will safely protect a raw egg from an impact on the ground when it is dropped from the second floor?
Once you design the "cage," then how can you design a parachute that will slow down the fall as much as possible?
Engage: What object, event, or questions will the teacher use to trigger the students' curiosity and engage them in the concepts?
Start the class with a discussion about how we want to send humans to Mars. Ask them to share what they think about it: Will it be easy? Difficult? What are some of the issues? Why haven't we sent astronauts there yet?
Read the article "NASA Completes Orion Parachute Development Tests" from NASA to get them interested in the topic.
Talk about some of the challenges that still must be solved before sending a manned mission to Mars. One area to direct students to is a safe landing. The lander must be designed to allow humans to safely land after a long journey in microgravity—of if not humans, the lander has to land without damaging the cargo.
Then relate how we are always trying to integrate new technologies into problems we have been wrestling with for some time. One of the new developments is 3D printing.
Show the YouTube video "3D Printing: Make anything you want" by 16x9onglobal to demonstrate how 3D printing can solve some engineering problems. Note: the video is 2 years old, and 3D printing has come a long way. We can use 3D printing to create something that hasn't been made before.
Explore: What will the students do to explore the concepts and skills being developed through the lesson?
For safety, keep the area where testing occurs clear.
As a class discussion:
- Present the problem: design a lander that will protect an egg from impact from a drop from the second story down to the ground. You will design, print and then test your lander measuring success by the "health" of your egg.
- You are constrained by only being able to print once, so make sure you build a prototype out of the selection of materials and test that first before your device is ready for printing. You will be allowed to make two prototypes before you decide on a final design to print.
- One raw egg in a baggie will be used as the payload. The goal for it is to land safely with no cracks.
- Tell the students that they will work in teams (assign teams). Have students work in their groups to brainstorm prototype ideas.
- Explain to students that after they determine the best design, then for Phase 2 they will move to designing the best parachute.
In Groups: Planning the Prototype
- Students should brainstorm by first starting out with the problems they must solve and ways they could overcome them.
- Provide students with several types of materials so they can build and test prototypes. Then they will decide on a size and shape to use with the 3D printer.
- The teacher should circulate the room listening for discussions in the groups and prompting students and groups that seem to be having difficulty. Direct them towards identifying some of the problems they must solve before starting. They will probably think about cushion for a fall and talk about what might work. Then talk about size or even shape that will allow the lander to fall on a certain side or an even distribution of weight.
- Also point out that a design still has to be transferred to the software on the 3D printer, so they should not make it too complicated.
- Once designs are approved, allow students to move to the next phase.
In Groups: Testing the Prototype
- Groups will then start building their prototypes. These are made from the materials available on the supply table, including things like cardboard, glue, tape, paper, paper towels, etc.
- Provide balances for students to record the mass of the lander. They should record the mass, list their materials, and keep notes on every step of the process.
- Students can use a raw egg placed in a plastic baggie to test their prototype.
- If their test was unsuccessful, they should analyze the weak points of their design and modify their design.
- Test again.
- Once students have created and tested a successful prototype, then they will finalize their design to move to the computer.
In Groups: designing the printed shape
- Depending on the set-up of your room and access to the printer and software, allow student groups to rotate through the computer to design their final product. This may take more than a few days.
- An option would be for all student groups to design then save their creation in a printer file that the teacher will print at a later date. The testing day can be scheduled to allow time for all of the designs to be printed.
Phase 1: Testing the lander
- Once all groups have printed their prototypes it will be time to run the actual lander test. Distribute the eggs in the baggies and repeat testing.
- Student groups will record data, including their observations of the other groups' designs.
- Incorporate technology by allowing students to take digital photos of the devices using their phones or available digital cameras.
- Once all groups have tested, have a discussion about what worked and why they think so. They could examine things such as mass, shape, and overall design.
- For the final part of the discussion, talk about the next phase: designing a parachute.
Phase 2: Design a parachute
- Now that students have their lander, their next challenge is to design a parachute that will slow down the lander as much as possible to allow for the least amount of force being exerted on impact.
- Students will stay in the same groups and will review the parameters.
- Students will only be allowed to use the materials on the table.
- They will only be allowed to build one prototype parachute, then test, then modify and settle on a final design.
- To measure the success of the parachute, the lander that takes the longest amount of time to land from the moment it is dropped will be deemed the most successful.
Test the Parachute
- Student groups ready to test will load their lander with their cargo (egg in baggie) and attached parachute.
- Drop the lander with deployed parachute.
- Time how long the lander takes to hit the ground.
- Assess the "health" of the cargo (check for cracks).
- As a class, discuss what was successful and what was not. Why do they think so?
- Allow students to redesign one more time and perform a second test on the parachute with lander.
- When students design their landers, make sure they include a place to connect the future parachute. They may choose up to four places to place the loops. The loops will be minimal, small enough that a string will fit through, and should not affect the rest of the design.
- As the teacher, you can decide on whether to restrict the size or weight of the parachute.
Explain: What will the students and teacher do so students have opportunities to clarify their ideas, reach a conclusion or generalization, and communicate what they know to others?
After all tests with lander designs and parachutes, students should develop a presentation of their findings. This will include the initial problem, their design solution(s), the result of each test, and what modifications were made. Pictures should be incorporated into the presentation.
Students should be given time to research parachute design and also the problems associated with designing missions to other planets involving landing on the ground with the cargo intact. (This also involves the Elaborate portion of the 5E lesson plan.)
Student groups will then present their findings to the class in the form the teacher prefers, or even better, allow students to choose their method of presentation: digital (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc.) or as a poster board.
An outline with presentation guidelines is attached.
Elaborate: What will the students do to apply their conceptual understanding and skills to solve a problem, make a decision, perform a task, or make sense of new knowledge?
As part of the development of their final presentation, students will research the problems associated with landing a probe onto a remote planet safely without damaging the cargo. Students will have a new-found understanding of the difficulties scientists have when presented with a problem and how problems can be solved through teamwork, careful testing, and modifications. Students will also relate how a problem can help them learn science concepts that they might not have understood thoroughly until they tried to solved the problem.
Students will be assessed on their presentation using the attached grading rubric.
The teacher will facilitate throughout the project. As students design, test, and implement changes, the teacher will circulate and ask student questions to have them explain their thinking. The teacher will direct groups to make sure they stay on task and to keep them focused on the problem. As students examine their failed attempts, the teacher will guide them back to what they might have missed in their design to try and steer them to a more successful solution.
On the other hand, the goal isn't necessarily to make all designs successful, but to understand the challenge with solving a problem without a definite "correct" answer. Some students may become frustrated with their lack of success. Lead them back to what may be causing the problems as the redesign.
After each phase of testing, the teacher will lead a class discussion also which will gauge understanding of the project and goals.
Feedback to Students
The teacher will circulate and facilitate throughout the project and question students individually and within groups, offering feedback and support without directly influencing student design.
While many eggs may break in this activity, the teacher will remain positive and supportive in helping students understand what they may need to do to be successful in the project.