Grade Range
3rd-5th
Group Size
5 students
Active Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes
Area of Science
Astronomy
Credits
TeachEngineering logo

Overview

The space launch of Juno.
Students examine spacecraft launches and their "slingshot" effect.
Copyright © NASA. Wikimedia Commons

Students are introduced to the engineering challenges involved with interplanetary space travel. In particular, they learn about the gravity assist or "slingshot" maneuver often used by engineers to send spacecraft to the outer planets. Using magnets and ball bearings to simulate a planetary flyby, students investigate what factors influence the deflection angle of a gravity assist maneuver.

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
  • 3-PS2-2. Make observations and/or measurements of an object's motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion. (Grade 3)
  • 4-PS3-1. Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object. (Grade 4)
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Make observations and/or measurements to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence for an explanation of a phenomenon or test a design solution.

Science findings are based on recognizing patterns.

Use evidence (e.g., measurements, observations, patterns) to construct an explanation.
PS2.A: Forces and Motion. The patterns of an object's motion in various situations can be observed and measured; when that past motion exhibits a regular pattern, future motion can be predicted from it. (Boundary: Technical terms, such as magnitude, velocity, momentum, and vector quantity, are not introduced at this level, but the concept that some quantities need both size and direction to be described is developed.)

PS3.A: Definitions of Energy. The faster a given object is moving, the more energy it possesses.
Patterns of change can be used to make predictions.

Energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects.

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Grade Range
3rd-5th
Group Size
5 students
Active Time
45 minutes
Total Time
45 minutes
Area of Science
Astronomy
Credits
TeachEngineering logo
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