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NASA’s BEST Students: Grades 6-8

Design a Lunar Buggy

Time to explore! Design and build a lunar buggy.

Middle school learners will be guided through a series of challenges that follow the engineering design cycle. Join NASA on an adventure through solving an engineering challenge to design and build a robotic lunar rover to traverse the lunar landscape.

OBJECTIVE
To demonstrate an understanding of the Engineering Design Process while utilizing each stage to successfully complete a team challenge.

DESIGN CHALLENGE
To design and build a model of a Lunar Buggy that will carry equipment and astronauts on the surface of the Moon and to determine the best slope of ramp for the rover to ravel the farthest distance.

PROCESS SKILLS
Measuring, calculating, designing, evaluating

MATERIALS

  • General building supplies
  • Meter stick
  • Digital scale
  • Small plastic people (i.e. Lego®)
  • Plastic eggs
  • Pennies or washers (“cargo”)
  • Wheels
  • Something to use as a ramp (preferably a flat surface that would enable the buggy to roll for 25 cm or more)

STUDENT PAGES

  • Design Challenge
  • Ask, Imagine and Plan
  • Experiment and Record
  • Quality Assurance Form
  • Fun with Engineering at Home

MOTIVATE

SET THE STAGE

ASK, IMAGINE, & PLAN

  • Share the Design Challenge with the students
  • Remind students to imagine solutions and draw their ideas first. All drawings should be approved before building.

CREATE

  • Challenge the teams to build their Lunar Buggies based on their designs. Remind them to keep within specifications.
  • While each group is working, designate one or two students to create a ramp with a slope of 1 to 3 in which all groups will use to roll their buggies and record observations.

EXPERIMENT

  • Students must test their designs down the ramp and record the distance travelled for each trial.
  • Students should try a “Goldilocks” experiment and test various slopes to give the best distance travelled with their Lunar Buggy. What slope is too large? What slope is too much? What slope is just right? Have the students record their results.

IMPROVE

  • Students improve their Lunar Buggy models based on results of the experiment phase.

CHALLENGE CLOSURE

Engage the students in the following questions:

  • Did the cargo mass make a difference in your Buggy’s performance?
  • How did the slope of the ramp affect your Buggy’s performance?

PREVIEWING NEXT SESSION

Ask teams to bring back their Lunar Buggy models for use in next session’s challenge. You may want to store them in the classroom or have the facilitator be responsible for their safe return next session.

Ask teams to think about potential landing pods during the next session. Tell students they will be building the landing pod out of the materials that have been available to them. The pod will be dropped from as high as possible (out a second story window, off a tall ladder, or from the top of a staircase).