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Science Fair Project: STEM Challenge Mars Lander

Science Fair Project: STEM Challenge Mars Lander

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Science Fair Project: STEM Challenge Mars Lander
January 4, 2017 by Tracy Leave a Comment

Allie wants to go to Mars when she grows up so she decided to do an engineering challenge as her first grade science project. The challenge involves designing a lander to contain marshmallows when dropped from a height over 6 feet.

We first watched this video on NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity to see the challenge of landing on Mars.

Project Background:

Humans have not reached Mars yet
Robots have been to Mars to explore the planet
Landing a robot on Mars is a big challenge
NASA used parachutes, rockets, and springs to land the Curiosity Rover
The Engineering Design Challenge:

You have made it to Mars and need to safely land with your fellow astronauts.
The task is to design a lander using only the materials listed below that lands safely (keeps all of her astronaut friends in the cup).
The lander will be dropped from 6 feet two times to test the design.
Materials: Index cards, tape, straw, cup, and marshmallows

Ask: What do you know?

A parachute will help the lander land softer
Marshmallows are not heavy so it had a lighter load
Straws are good to hold up a parachute
The tape will hold everything together
Create and test first design: The first design was to make a lander with a parachute. When the lander was dropped from a height of 6 feet the lander fell over dumping out all of her astronaut marshmallow friends.

Redesign and test second design: The lander needed to be more stable when it landed so she gave it legs, “springs” (accordion folded index cards). This design did not include a parachute. When this design was tested, it bounced and the marshmallows flew out the top. Allie decided to combine the two designs by adding springs and a parachute.

Conclusion and final design: The design used a parachute, legs, and springs to keep her marshmallow friends inside the lander!

What was learned:

The parachute helped slow down the landing
Index cards as springs helped soften the landing
The legs kept it from tipping over
Here is a picture of Allie’s final lander design. She called it the “Allie Express”. You’ve got to love a first grader’s creativity!

This was a simple engineering challenge and easy to do with simple materials. We hope this inspires you too!

The challenge was adapted from here.

Filed Under: 3 ingredient experiments, engineering, Lovely Conversations, science fair project
Tagged With: first, science fair

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