Engineer Helicopters for Mars
- Understand the iterative nature of engineering design.
- Give examples to illustrate that gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of the interacting objects.
- Give examples to illustrate that gravitational interactions are only noticeable when the mass of at least one of the interacting objects is large.
- Explain the descent of a paper helicopter in terms of gravity and lift.
Space exploration poses many challenges. In this lesson, students will explore how flying a helicopter on Mars is different from flying a helicopter on Earth due to the difference in the helicopter's weight on Mars and the thin Martian atmosphere. Students will follow the engineering design process to design and build paper helicopters that might be able to fly on Mars. Before testing their different helicopter designs, students will revisit the concept of gravity, and apply their knowledge to the challenge at hand.
Remote learning adaptation: This lesson plan can be conducted remotely. Students can work independently on the Explore section of the lesson plan using the Student Worksheet as a guide and the video as an introduction. The Engage and Reflect sections can either be dropped entirely, done in writing remotely, or be conducted over a video chat.
NGSS AlignmentThis lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
For each group of 2–4 students:
Groups should have access to the following shared materials:
Area of Science
Gravity, engineering process
Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies
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