Patch American pupils power up space transport
January 30, 2004
STUTTGART, Germany — Patch American Middle School pupil Athene Kline spent a solid hour Thursday reworking the circuits that would channel the electricity for her team’s space vehicle.
Using pieces of balsa wood, strands of copper wire, a nine-volt battery and tiny wheels, Athene and three other eight-grade classmates had made their version of a craft that could explore Jupiter.
“It should work,” said Tess Knutson, another pupil in the group.
For the past three weeks, about 85 eighth-graders at Patch have been working on projects that they will enter in a Space Day competition. Some pupils created Web sites that told of mock space journeys. Others built unique tools that would be used in the solar system. And others, such as Athene’s and Tess’s team, created space exploration vehicles.
Eighth-grade science teacher Cristen Klute said having her pupils work on the Space Day projects forced them to use skills from a variety of disciplines.
The youngsters researched planets, created computer spreadsheets, relied on graphs, wrote stories and journals and used problem-solving skills to build some of their contraptions, she said.
The youngsters have until Monday to complete their projects, when they will be mailed to the United States to be included in a Space Day contest on May 6. Winners will be selected for best design. Space Day is a day sponsored by scientists to use space-related activities to inspire and prepare youth for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Coming up with one novel idea of space exploration were Ashley Shaffer, Sam Beatty and Zachary Taylor. Their objective was to create a craft that could explore Mars. A household electrical fan was used to power a small skateboard. They spent Thursday running a series of tests to see how quickly their fan-powered vehicle could cover various distances in the school’s main office and front hall.
“It’s like one of those boats powered by air,” Beatty said.
Klute said the fan design was creative, and that individual teams had to record how quickly their vehicles could travel.
The vehicles will be judged partially on how fast they move. And teams — that ranged in size from two to four pupils — also will be judged on the stories they write about their projects.