Four-ces of Flight

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Grade 3-6 | 1 (7 hour) Day

What makes a rocket fly? Pixie dust? A cool paint job? Popeye’s spinach? This lesson will allow students to explore the four forces that are necessary for a rocket, or any flying object, to take flight. Young aviators will experience each of the forces of flight through a series of interactive activities and see how they all come together to make flight possible for humans and animals!

Schedule

Materials

Star Hopper (one per student)

Engines (one per rocket)

Launch System (one per 10 students)

Star Hopper Model Rocket Build Video (optional)

Camera (optional)

Flying Organism Pictures

Balloons

Frisbees

Running parachute or large, heavy duty trash bag

Cones

Measuring Tape

Rocket Safety Slide Presentation

Forces of Flight Slide Presentation

Paper

Pens/Pencils/Markers

Youth Program Guide

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Resources

PowerPoint Presentations

Rocket Safety Slide Presentation

Forces of Flight Slide Presentation

Activities

Flying Organism Pictures

Links

Just Right

Storyline

Standards

Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials

Lesson Plan

Student Portfolio

Resources

Grade 6-8 | 3 (45 min) Classes

In this lesson, students will apply an understanding of statistics to the height requirements for astronaut candidacy. They are answering the question, “How can we use mean, median, and mode to analyze and graph Astronaut height data?” Students will analyze the data to identify patterns and deviations from the pattern.


For their assessment students will gather, graph, and analyze height data collected from measuring their classmates to determine the possibility of the students in their class being selected as an astronaut candidate based on height.

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Common Core Standards - Math

CCSS.MATH. CONTENT.6. SP.A.3

Recognize that a measure of center for a numerical data set summarizes all of its values with a single number, while a measure of variation describes how its values vary with a single number.

CCSS.MATH. CONTENT.6. SP.B.4

Display numerical data in plots on a number line, including dot plots, histograms, and box plots.

CCSS.MATH. CONTENT.6. SP.B.5. A

Reporting the number of observations.

CCSS.MATH. CONTENT.6. SP.B.5.C

Giving quantitative measures of center (median and/or mean) and variability (interquartile range and/or mean absolute deviation), as well as describing any overall pattern and any striking deviations from the overall pattern with reference to the context in which the data were gathered.

Vocabulary

HABITABLE SPACE

The amount of livable space

MEAN

The average of the data

MEDIAN

The data point that is in the middle when the data is listed in numerical order

MODE

The value or values that occur the most often in a data set

OUTLIER

Data point that differs significantly from other measurements

RANGE

The difference between the greatest and least values

Teacher Background

Astronaut Heights

When NASA announced that applications for the next astronaut class were open for the Astronaut Class of 2021, over 12,000 people applied for the ten available spots! There are strict requirements to apply for candidacy. In addition to being in excellent health, prospective astronauts must meet the following requirements:


● Height between 148.59 cm and 192 cm (4’10” and 6’3”)
● Weigh between 50 and 95 kilograms (110 and 209 pounds)
● Have 20/20 vision or better in each eye, with or without correction


Additionally, the basic requirements include:


● U.S. citizen
● Master’s degree in a STEM field
● Two years of work towards a doctoral program
● Completed medical degree or test pilot program
● At least two years of related professional experience or 1,000 hours flight time

Project Artemis

We are at an exciting time in space exploration. The Artemis program is a human spaceflight program led by NASA to explore the Moon, aiming for its first touchdown to be on the lunar south pole. The first mission in the Artemis program will bring the first woman and person of color to the moon. The Orion Spacecraft is the spacecraft to be used in the Artemis program. It is a partially reusable crewed spacecraft that will carry a crew of six and will launch atop a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The SLS is the successor to the retired Space Shuttle.

Designed to make use of proven rocket technology and existing resources, the NASA SLS uses modified Space Shuttle main engines for its central core stage and Space Shuttle derived solid rockets for the outboard boosters. The NASA SLS Block1 will generate 8.8 million pounds of thrust at lift off. That is enough raw power to carry the Orion crew vehicle, an upper stage booster, and four astronauts all the way to lunar orbit and back. The NASA SLS is designed as a modular system of components, stages, and payloads so it can fulfill multiple roles during Project Artemis. Subsequent Block 1B and Block 2 versions of the NASA SLS will launch landers and cargo to the moon, and later to Mars.

 

As NASA’s missions and spacecraft have changed, the requirements for astronauts have changed in response. The table below lists different spacecraft, their missions, and the habitable area.

Review of Statistics

A strong foundation and understanding of mean, median and mode is an important stepping stone to understanding statistics more deeply.


Mean: The average of the data. To calculate, find the sum of the data and then divide by the number of data points.
Median: The data point that is in the middle when data is listed in numerical order. For an even number of data points, the median is the average of the two middle values.
Mode: The value or values that occur most often in a data set.
Range: The difference between the greatest and least values. It is used to show the spread of the data in a data set. To calculate, subtract the smallest number from the largest number.
Outlier: Data point that differs significantly from other measurements.

Review of Graphing

Graphing is used to represent and summarize data sets in a meaningful way.
The basic components of a graph are:


X axis: Independent variable: what is being changed
Y axis: Dependent variable: what is being counted (or what changes based on the change in independent variable)
Title: Clear and accurate description of the data
Axis Label: Both axes should be labeled and include units of measurement

Types of Graphs

While there are many ways to graph data, this lesson focuses on the following four graphs:

Bar Graph
Circle Graph
Histogram
Line Graph

Bar Graph

Uses vertical or horizontal bars to display numerical information

Used to show numbers in categories

Circle Graph / Pie Chart

Used to compare parts of the data to the whole
Entire circle represents the whole (100%)
Each wedge represents a part of the whole

Histogram

Bar graph that shows the frequency of each item
Used to show distribution and relationships of a single variable over a set of categories

Line Graph

Used to show change over time
Plot a point for each data item, and then connect the dots with straight line segments

Materials

Calculator  (one per student)

Meter Stick  (one per group)

Graphing software such as Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or graph paper, rulers and pencils  (one per student)

Just Right: Student Portfolio (1 per student)

NASA SLS, Engines, and Launch System (for optional class rocket launch)

Lesson Plan

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Student Portfolio

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Resources

PowerPoint Presentations

Astronaut Explorers Wanted – Slide Presentation

Mean, Median, and Mode – Slide Presentation

Links

Supporting Materials: Interactive Notes

NAR Model Rocket Safety Code

Occasion for an Equation

An Occasion for An Equation

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Standards

Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials
Unit Plan
Student Portfolio
Resources
Occasion for an Equation Header

Grade 6-8 | 10 (45 min) Classes

In this unit, students will use algebraic equations and expressions to make sense of what effect different masses have on the velocity and acceleration of different model rockets. They will answer the question, “How are algebraic equations used to calculate model rocket acceleration?” and will learn how to calculate altitude, velocity, and acceleration using basic algebraic equations of motion.

 

For their final assessment, students will create a bar graph of the average acceleration for each of the three rockets (Alpha, Generic E2X, and Viking) and reflect on the effect of the mass of the rocket on acceleration.

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Common Core Standards - Math

GRADE 6

Write and evaluate numerical expressions involving whole-number exponents.

Write, read, and evaluate expressions in which letters stand for numbers.

Write expressions that record operations with numbers and with letters standing for numbers.

Identify parts of an expression using mathematical terms (sum, term, product, factor, quotient, coefficient); view one or more parts of an expression as a single entity.

Evaluate expressions at specific values of their variables. Include expressions that arise from formulas used in real-world problems. Perform arithmetic operations, including those involving whole-number exponents, in the conventional order when there are no parentheses to specify a particular order (Order of Operations).

Understand solving an equation or inequality as a process of answering a question: which values from a specified set, if any, make the equation or inequality true? Use substitution to determine whether a given number in a specified set makes an equation or inequality true.

Use variables to represent numbers and write expressions when solving a real-world or mathematical problem; understand that a variable can represent an unknown number, or, depending on the purpose at hand, any number in a specified set.

Solve real-world and mathematical problems by writing and solving equations of the form x + p = q and px = q for cases in which p, q and x are all nonnegative rational numbers.

Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables and relate these to the equation.

GRADE 7

Apply properties of operations as strategies to add, subtract, factor, and expand linear expressions with rational coefficients.

Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies.

Use variables to represent quantities in a real-world or mathematical problem and construct simple equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities.

Solve word problems leading to equations of the form px + q = r and p(x + q) = r, where p, q, and r are specific rational numbers. Solve equations of these forms fluently. Compare an algebraic solution to an arithmetic solution, identifying the sequence of the operations used in each approach.

GRADE 8

Graph proportional relationships, interpreting the unit rate as the slope of the graph. Compare two different proportional relationships represented in different ways.

Solve linear equations in one variable.

Common Core Standards - ELA

Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

Vocabulary

ACCELERATION

How much an object’s velocity changes over a certain time, or the rate at which an object increases its speed

ALGEBRAIC EXPRESSION

A mathematical phrase that contains ordinary numbers, variables (like x or y) and mathematical operations

ALGEBRAIC EQUATION

A mathematical sentence with an equal sign where the value of the variable cannot be changed

APOGEE

The peak altitude or highest point of a rocket’s flight

CONSTANT

A value or number that does not change

DISTANCE

How far something has gone

DISPLACEMENT

How far something has gone from where it started (includes direction)

LIKE TERMS

When terms have the same algebraic factors and are raised to the same power

MASS

The amount of matter in an object

SPEED

The rate of change of position or how far something went in a certain amount of time

TERM

A number, variable, or quotient of numbers and variables in an algebraic expression or equation

THRUST

The propulsive force that moves something forward

UNLIKE TERMS

When terms have different algebraic factors or are raised to different powers

VARIABLE

A placeholder for a quantity that may change in an algebraic expression or equation

VELOCITY

The speed and direction of an object

Teacher Background

Algebraic Expressions and Equations

Algebraic expressions are created when addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division are operated upon by a variable. Variables are any symbol that does not have a fixed value, meaning the number inputted for the variable can change, whereas constants are symbols that have a fixed value, meaning the number cannot change. An algebraic expression combines variables and constants using the operational symbols (+,-,x, ÷) but does not include an equal sign.

 

Algebraic expression: 2x + 5

 

Algebraic equations, on the other hand, include an equal sign and are composed of algebraic expressions. An easy way to remember this is that algebraic EQUAtions have EQUAL signs. For example,

 

Algebraic equation: 2x + 5 = 11

 

Simplifying Algebraic Expressions

To simplify an algebraic expression, combine like terms (ones that have the same variables and are raised to the same power). For example, 3×2 and 4×2 are like terms because they have the same variable (x) and are raised to the same power (2), but x and x2 are not like terms even though they have the same variable, because they are not raised to the same power.

 

Types of Algebraic Expressions

There are many types of algebraic expressions and the key to understanding them is to understand the building block. A monomial is an expression that has a single term, with variables and coefficients. An example of a monomial expression would be 3xy because it is a single term, with 2 variables (x,y) and a coefficient (3). An expression with two terms is called a binomial (4x – 2y2) and one with three terms is a trinomial (4x-3y+z). Binomials, trinomials, and expressions with more than three terms can all be classified as polynomials.

 

Solving Algebraic Equations

To solve an equation, place the variables on one side of the equal sign and the constants on the other side. Make sure the variable stands alone such as x = __ or a = ___ and not 2x = ___ or 5y = _____.

Speed, Velocity, and Acceleration

Speed is the distance traveled divided by the amount of time it took to move. Distance is how far the object traveled. Velocity is similar but is a vector quantity (has magnitude and direction), so it uses displacement which is the distance the object has traveled from where it started. Velocity is displacement divided by time. This is an important distinction to make for students.  
Speed = distance/time
S = d/t
Velocity = displacement/time
V = d/t

Acceleration is also a vector as its formula is change in velocity divided by change in time. This is written as “delta v over delta t” or final velocity minus initial velocity divided by the change in time.

How does a Rocket Fly?

Students should be familiar with how a model rocket launches and all safety procedures that should be followed. The safety requirements can be found in the Model Rocket Safety Code of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).

A Typical Model Rocket Flight

Thrust is the upward force that makes a rocket move off the launch pad. This is a demonstration of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The action of the gas escaping through the engine nozzle leads to the reaction of the rocket moving in the opposite direction. The casing of a model rocket engine contains the propellant. At the base of the engine is the nozzle which is made of a heat-resistant, rigid material. The igniter in the rocket engine nozzle is heated by an electric current supplied by a battery-powered launch controller. 

The hot igniter ignites the solid rocket propellant inside the engine which produces gas while it is being consumed. This gas causes pressure inside the rocket engine, which must escape through the nozzle. The gas escapes at a high speed and produces thrust. Located above the propellant is the smoke-tracking and delay element. Once the propellant is used up, the engine’s time delay is activated.

 

The engine’s time delay produces a visible smoke trail used in tracking, but no thrust. The fast-moving rocket now begins to decelerate (slow down) as it coasts upward toward peak altitude (apogee). The rocket slows down due to the pull of gravity and the friction created as it moves through the atmosphere. The effect of this atmospheric friction is called drag. When the rocket has slowed enough, it will stop going up and begin to arc over and head downward. This high point or peak altitude is the apogee. At this point the engine’s time delay is used up and the ejection charge is activated. The ejection charge is above the delay element. It produces hot gases that expand and blow away the cap at the top of the engine. The ejection charge generates a large volume of gas that expands forward and pushes the recovery system (parachute, streamer, helicopter blades) out of the top of the rocket. The recovery system is activated and provides a slow, gentle and soft landing. The rocket can now be prepared for another launch.

 

To summarize, the steps of the Flight Sequence of a Model Rocket are:

  1. Electrically ignited model rocket engines provide rocket liftoff.
  2. Model rocket accelerates and gains altitude.
  3. Engine burns out and the rocket continues to climb during the coast phase.
  4. Engine generates tracking smoke during the delay/coast phase.
  5. Rocket reaches peak altitude (apogee). Model rocket ejection charge activates the recovery system.
  6. Recovery systems are deployed. Parachutes and streamers are the most popular recovery systems used.
  7. Rocket returns to Earth.
  8. Rocket touchdown! Replace the engine, igniter, igniter plug and recovery wadding. Rocket is ready to launch again!

Materials

Each Student Needs:

Student Design Portfolio

Safety Goggles

Scissors

Calculator

The Class Needs:

Unit Plan

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Student Portfolio

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Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope

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Standards

Vocabulary

Teacher Background

Materials
Unit Plan
Student Portfolio
Resources
Slippery Slope Unit Plan

Grade 6-8 | 10 (45 min) Classes

In this unit students will answer the question: How is slope represented in a model rocket launch?

 

Students will learn about the different types of slope and practice calculation methods to find slope from a graph. Students will then analyze launch data to identify and calculate where a rocket has a positive, negative and/or neutral slope on its flight path.

 

For their final assessment students will be creating a visual of the four types of slope that shows how slope is seen on a model rocket’s flight path.

Standards

Targeted Performance Expectation(s):

Common Core Standards - Math

GRADE 7

Recognize and represent proportional relationships between quantities.

Decide whether two quantities are in a proportional relationship.

Identify the constant of proportionality (unit rate) in tables, graphs, equations, diagrams, and verbal descriptions of proportional relationships. 

GRADE 8

Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).

Interpret the equation y = mx + b as defining a linear function, whose graph is a straight line; give examples of functions that are not linear.

Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear). Sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a function that has been described verbally.

High School

For a function that models a relationship between two quantities, interpret key features of graphs and tables in terms of the quantities, and sketch graphs showing key features given a verbal description of the relationship

Interpret the slope (rate of change) and the intercept (constant term) of a linear model in the context of the data.

Vocabulary

APOGEE

The peak altitude or highest point of a rocket’s flight

HORIZONTAL

Goes left to right, parallel to the horizon

VERTICAL

Goes up and down, perpendicular to the horizon

PAYLOAD

The object being carried by an aircraft or launch vehicle

RATIO

A comparison of two or more numbers or measurements

SLOPE

Shows the rate of change, steepness, and direction of a line

X-AXIS

Horizontal axis, on a graph it shows the dependent variable

Y-AXIS

Vertical axis, on a graph it shows the independent variable

Teacher Background

Slope

Slope measures the steepness of a line. A line that is steep will have a bigger slope than a line that is flatter. Slope is calculated as the ratio of the amount of vertical change to horizontal change. Basically, it shows a rate of change. This is often referred to as “rise over run.” The rise is the y-axis and the run is the x-axis.

There are four types of slope.

1. Positive

  • The line goes up from left to right.
  • The y-axis values are increasing as the x-axis values are increasing.
  • Example: The funnier the cat videos are that I post on Facebook, the number of likes goes up.

2. Negative
  • The line goes down from left to right.
  • The y-axis values are decreasing as the x-axis values are increasing.
  • Example: If I increase my time watching Netflix, the time I have left to study will decrease
3. Zero
  • The line is horizontal.
  • The y-axis values do not change as the x-axis values are increasing.
  • Example: If I stand in one place and don’t move, time will continue to increase but my distance travelled will not.
4. Undefined
  • The line is vertical.
  • The x-axis values do change as the y-axis values are increasing.
  • Example: An elevator can go up and down, but does not move horizontally.

How does a Rocket Fly?

Students should be familiar with how a model rocket launches and all safety procedures that should be followed. The safety requirements can be found in the Model Rocket Safety Code of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).

A Typical Model Rocket Flight

Thrust is the upward force that makes a rocket move off the launch pad. This is a demonstration of Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” The action of the gas escaping through the engine nozzle leads to the reaction of the rocket moving in the opposite direction. The casing of a model rocket engine contains the propellant. At the base of the engine is the nozzle which is made of a heat-resistant, rigid material. The igniter in the rocket engine nozzle is heated by an electric current supplied by a battery-powered launch controller. 

The hot igniter ignites the solid rocket propellant inside the engine which produces gas while it is being consumed. This gas causes pressure inside the rocket engine, which must escape through the nozzle. The gas escapes at a high speed and produces thrust. Located above the propellant is the smoke-tracking and delay element. Once the propellant is used up, the engine’s time delay is activated.

 

The engine’s time delay produces a visible smoke trail used in tracking, but no thrust. The fast-moving rocket now begins to decelerate (slow down) as it coasts upward toward peak altitude (apogee). The rocket slows down due to the pull of gravity and the friction created as it moves through the atmosphere. The effect of this atmospheric friction is called drag. When the rocket has slowed enough, it will stop going up and begin to arc over and head downward. This high point or peak altitude is the apogee. At this point the engine’s time delay is used up and the ejection charge is activated. The ejection charge is above the delay element. It produces hot gases that expand and blow away the cap at the top of the engine. The ejection charge generates a large volume of gas that expands forward and pushes the recovery system (parachute, streamer, helicopter blades) out of the top of the rocket. The recovery system is activated and provides a slow, gentle and soft landing. The rocket can now be prepared for another launch.

 

To summarize, the steps of the Flight Sequence of a Model Rocket are:

  1. Electrically ignited model rocket engines provide rocket liftoff.
  2. Model rocket accelerates and gains altitude.
  3. Engine burns out and the rocket continues to climb during the coast phase.
  4. Engine generates tracking smoke during the delay/coast phase.
  5. Rocket reaches peak altitude (apogee). Model rocket ejection charge activates the recovery system.
  6. Recovery systems are deployed. Parachutes and streamers are the most popular recovery systems used.
  7. Rocket returns to Earth.
  8. Rocket touchdown! Replace the engine, igniter, igniter plug and recovery wadding. Rocket is ready to launch again!

Engine Types

Rocket engines are governed by the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and follow the same alphanumeric coding:

B6-4 Engine
  • Letters: Each successive letter has TWICE as much power as the previous letter (a B engine would have twice as much impulse power as an A engine).
  • First number: Average Thrust: This is a measure of how slowly or quickly the engine delivers its total energy. Engines with low numbers will have a weak thrust for a long duration. Engines with high numbers will have a high thrust over a short duration (high numbers are good for heavy rockets).
  • Second number: This number tells you the delay (in seconds). In other words, the time between the end of thrust and the ejection charge. The ejection charge is activated after the delay. It produces a quick puff of gas that pressurizes the inside of the body tube to push out the recovery system.
  • Color
    • Green: Single stage engineEngines in Hand
    • Purple: High performance single stage/final stage multistage engine
    • Red: Booster-stage engine
    • Blue: Special use engine

Materials

Each Student Needs:

Student Design Portfolio

Safety Goggles

Tape

Scissors

The Class Needs:

Unit Plan

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Student Portfolio