Space Science Projects

Space science projects offer access to all students to dream big and pursue their curiosities with boundless learning opportunities.

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Space science appeals to our fundamental curious human nature.  Doing work in this field invites student engagement and drives learning through the pursuit of curious wonderings.  This creates a space where, as an educator, I can encourage and coach students to make choices about the direction their learning proceeds.   Once work is underway there is a context that allows for authentic, deep learning opportunities.  

Over the past four years, a few close colleagues and myself have developed three main space science projects: high altitude balloon experiments, astronomy and astrophotography, and rocketry.  Each of these projects have been longitudinal in nature, picking up where the last group has left off and pusing the boundaries of what we can achieve. This challenge to push beyond the frontiers of our efforts keeps the work fresh and rewarding, creating another layer of appeal to incoming students.

Each semester I am floored by what the students produce.   Beautiful astrophotography images, $2 rockets that travel over 1000ft high, video footage from the edge of goes on and on, with each successive project group trying to outdo the previous one.  There is enough choice ingrained into these endeavors that once students decide on how to push the boundaries of what we've accomplished, the work itself becomes inherently self-directed.

We currently find ourselves at a point where we've reached funding obstacles that have prevented us from pushing our boundaries further.  On a positive note, we've developed some creative ways to overcome these challenges.  Despite this, at some point our funding challenges become prohibitive.  I look forward to working and collaborating with others to generate ideas about how to support and maintain the momentum in these projects.


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Photo of Erin Quinn

Hmmm. Well! Maybe our Teachers Guild community can help you design your way out of your funding challenges. What questions do you have we can support you in answering that might help you?

Photo of Andrew

Hello Erin.  Thank you for reaching out.  Hopefully I can clarify some of the issues that we are encountering.  

Our main goal is to keep moving forward with each project, taking the next step in development and application.  For our rocketry program, we've made paper rockets, water rockets, small balsa rockets, larger scratch build rockets, and have developed motors  to power all of them.    Up to this point, we've come up with ways to keep costs down.  We've even managed to design fully functional rockets that travel over 1000ft for less than $2, making it accessible to small student groups for relatively little cost.  To scale up to the next stage of rockets requires metal parts and fabrication that becomes more costly, up to an estimated $150 per rocket.  Although we can make larger student groups, the cost becomes prohibitive to move forward in this trajectory.  One thing that we've done to shift focus is to develop better rocket designs and motors for the smaller rockets, but these options are becoming exhausted, and there is a loss in student engagement by not having that notion of moving to a new frontier.  

For high altitude balloons and astrophotography, the issues that arise in funding come into play as we attempt to include more students in these projects.  With current funding, we can launch 1-2 weather balloons in a semester, which we feel is good for 1-2 student groups of at most 5 members.  For astrophotography, there are only a few telescopes and cameras that we have available to allow students to capture celestial objects.  Having these limitations creates bottlenecks in the work we do, which inevitably results in less learning opportunities.   We've reached out to community members and have been well supported.  We worry, however, that depending on contributions from the community is unsustainable, and creates issues with planning and knowing what funding will be available.  Hopefully we can figure something out to keep the momentum of these projects moving forward.

Thank you for taking the time to work with us.


Andrew Lerario