PLEASE NOTE: This program is no longer active and has been archived in SSEC Research History as of 2/23/18: More info

The Office of Space Science Education (OSSE) has teamed up with Mechanical Engineering Robotics Lab and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation at the UW-Madison is conducting a three week workshop for middle school students as part of the Pre-college Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence (PEOPLE). The workshop is held at the  Space Place, located at 1605 South Park Street in Madison.  This year there are thirteen students enrolled in the workshop. 

Over a three week period the students will apply their math, science, communication and creative talents to design several missions to explore the solar system.  Each team of budding young space explorers will design a terrain to replicate their targeted solar system body, build a launch vehicle (rocket), design and program a rover to navigate and explore their selected terrain, create a habitat to live in their newly formed colony, and of course develop a news brief to keep those of us back on earth informed about their adventures! 

  Here is a journal of the group activities: 

Monday June 11th PICTURES
Introductions.  Discussion of the telescopes at Space Place and hands-on observations of sunspots outside. Also, graduate students from the Physics Department conducted a demonstration on the electromagnetic spectrum and infrared light.

Tuesday June 12th
More on telescopes today. Dr. Jim Lattis and Kay Kriewald had the students make their own telescopes from cardboard kits, illustrating how the lens work to magnify and focus images far away. Kay worked with students to demonstrate the principles behind rockets, essential for space flight. They watched a short video that explained  Newton's Laws of motion demonstrated by astronauts on the space shuttle.  Using a balloon, an eraser-head pencil, a flexible plastic drinking straw, some electrical tape and a pin,  they explored Newton's Third Law to make the balloon-at-the-end-of the-straw spin around the axle (pin) pushed through the straw into the eraser end of the pencil. Then they used some household "rocket fuel" (Alka seltzer tablets and water) to make film-canister rockets to see who could "pop" the lid of the canister farthest in the parking lot. 

Wednesday June 13th
Each student got a rocket kit to assemble, complete with a launch pad and parachute.  Weather permitting, the "Launch Event" will take place at Quann Park tomorrow morning.  At the end of the day, we were T-20 hours and counting!

Thursday June 14th  Launch Day!
After another physics demonstration, this one on the expansion of the universe, the students finished the construction of the rockets and went to the launch site at Quann Park. At Quann Park they formed a rocket recovery team, and then prepared their rockets for launch by preparing the wadding and the parachute, inserting the fuse into the motor, inserting the motor into the rocket fuselage and then transporting the rocket to the launch pad and preparing for ignition.  After a launch countdown initiated by inserting the launch safety key into the ignition switch, the team fired off their rockets one by one to the great joy and satisfaction of all.

Friday June 15th
What is the most common cause for delays in NASA Space Shuttle launches? The weather! Today we brought the discussion down to earth and investigated the relationship between air temperature and air pressure via the "hand-twist" model for simulating High and Low pressure systems. Bridget Hood then lead the students through  the "cloud-in-a bottle" experiment. Finally, Margaret Mooney presented a slide show and discussion on severe weather and severe weather safety followed by a short video on tornadoes.

Monday June 18th
Today we stayed on campus. We started with a tour of the Geology museum, noting the meteorites, the dinosaurs, and Wisconsin's state rock (red granite) and state fossil (trilobite). From here we went next door to the Atmospheric Oceanic and  Space Science building observing the OWL (On-line Weather Looper) and McIdas satellite
data monitor in the lobby. Students learned about Verner Suomi's pioneering contributions to weather satellite imagery. Also included in today's adventures was a dramatic trip to the roof for spectacular views of campus and downtown Madison with winds gusting to 30 and 40 mph! We took our break in a classroom and watched a video on the solar system and another short video on Mars in preparation for the rest of the weeks activities back at Space Place.

Tuesday June 19th PICTURES
Today we were back at Space Place and the students investigated the concept of Pi - exploring the relationship between the circumference and the diameter of a circle, recognizing that the ratio of the two is constant, regardless of the size of the circle.  After measuring several different spheres and circles the students used an "Apple Pi(e)" and a "Strawberry Pi(e)" for the break!  After break we tried to get a grasp of the distances in the solar system using a hands-on approach using a 100 ft. rope, with Sun at one end and Pluto at the other.  Students positioned themselves as a planet at locations along the rope where they thought they should be located.  They then made a linear graph of the planet locations along the rope. 

Wednesday June 20th  PICTURES  
Back on campus again, cosmology graduate students Molly Read and Chris O'Dell treated the group to some fun experiments and interesting demonstrations at the Physics lab using liquid nitrogen and balloons filled with different types of gases. This culminated in a practical and fun application adding liquid nitrogen to cream from Babcock hall to make instant ice cream! From here we walked to the planetarium where Dr. Jim Lattis demonstrated a celestial presentation of the summer night sky over Wisconsin. Finally, Jim and Kay treated the students to a tour of the Washburn observatory overlooking beautiful Lake Mendota. Students were able to see sun spots using the Observatory telescope. 

PICTURES from the tour

Thursday June 21st 
The class returned to Space Place where students started off by journaling about all the cool things they saw on campus the day before. Then they recorded their daily weather observations and tried another Pi investigation with a 100 foot rope- the diameter of the largest circle that can be formed with that circumference. After this they watched a video on Mars in preparation for building terrains and rovers before traveling to SSEC on campus to do some Internet research on Mars.

Friday June 22nd
Today students built their terrain for the rovers to explore. Utilizing the information and pictures they got from the Internet they designed extra-terrestial landscapes.  The students began to fill in the "surface features" of their terrains using varied materials such as construction paper, styrofoam packing peanuts, newspaper, plastic containers, dry wall joint tape and dry wall joint compound.  Numerous "volcanoes," craters, valleys and canyons were created on the 4' x 4' terrain platforms as students experimented with the
various construction materials.  This was a fun, hands-on excercise! The terrains will dry over the weekend, ready for paint on Monday.

Monday June 25th
The third and final week started off with the students mixing colors to paint planetary landscapes. After about an hour of artistic endeavor they were ready to learn about building LEGO roversfrom Bridget Hood who walked them through a demonstration. 

Each LEGO Mindstorm kit contains a LEGO RCX computer and assorted Lego parts to build rovers such as wheels, gears, tires, tiles, etc.  In addition, they also include electric motors, optical (light detection) and mechanical sensors (touch, rotation) and beepers that can be connected to the RCX computer (LEGO RCX
"Brick") by short cables to receive power and to submit sensor input.  The RCX computer can be programmed with simple functional commands (e.g.  Power on for a certain time interval,  Set Direction of motors, Poll the Sensors, Beeps, Wait and Power Off).  The sequence of commands to be executed is written as a "Program" on a desktop computer using a simple, "drag and drop" method to arrange the commands in a desired sequence.  This program is then transferred to the RCX using an infrared transmitter. After a successful transmission, the RCX is ready to execute the commands programmed.  This is a very creative way for students to learn how to achieve a desired action and encourages critical thinking at every stage. 

Tuesday June 26th
Today Jim Lattis and Kay Kriewald presented a thousand yard model of the Solar System. Using a balloon for the sun and various nuts and seeds to represent a scaled model of the solar system, the students paced off the distances of the planets, walking over an hour to get to Pluto and back! Fortunately it was a gorgeous sunny summer morning and most of us found the excursion to be very enjoyable. More importantly, we got a great idea of how far apart the planets are and how small or large they are relative to the sun and each other. When we got back to Space Place, students took turns programming and building their LEGO rovers. 

Wednesday June 27th
Kay Kriewald began by requesting feedback from the students about their impressions of the thousand yard model of the Solar System. After this the students got caught up documenting their experiences in their journals. Then they continued programming and building their LEGO rovers and having them "explore" the mars terrains. 

Thursday June 28th
Today started out with a video (DVD) compilation of exploration mission footage of earth and mars. Then the students had their last chance to build LEGO rovers and program them to traverse the terrians they constructed. Simultaneously, three students, Chelsy, Adeyinka and  Nazly, prepared their presentations for the graduation luncheon.

Friday June 29th  GRADUATION!
Students went to Space Place one last time and constructed paper models of the GIFTS satellite and the Challenger Space Shuttle before heading over to the Memorial Union to celebrate their accomplishments at a graduation luncheon at the Great Hall.

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Program Coordinator: Margaret Mooney