Students prepare to launch their jet powered blimp under the watchful eyes of a State Engineering Design Challenge Judge, a professional engineer from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the Host and Presenting Sponsor of the 2015 TAME State Math and Science Competition.
Welcome to TAME Engineering Adventures! Every month we strive to bring you engineering activities that will help you challenge your students with hands-on learning.
This month’s challenge flies to your classroom from the State STEM Competition and will provide a fun challenge for both middle and high school students. To see how State competitors stepped up to the challenge, click here.
For the very first time, TAME is releasing the competition documents for our State Engineering Team Design Challenge. Group your students into teams and have them assign roles like real engineers, then follow our instructions in a timed competition.
Sunset over McMurdo Research Station, Antarctica – Nacreous Clouds Over McMurdo 5, by Alan Light, shared under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
Posing the Problem
“Every year, engineers build an ice-runway to provide supplies to researchers at the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. A sudden shift in ice floes has blocked runway access and there is a race to identify an alternate runway location. Your team has been invited to present your design for a jet-powered blimp that can survey the icy landscape quickly and efficiently.”
Inventing a Solution
“You have 45 minutes to design a jet-powered blimp prototype that can fly in a straight line, maintain altitude and cover long distances. You will also present the design concept and explain the propulsion system to the judges. Teams will earn points for performance (how far the blimp flies), design (the propulsion & flotation systems used), creativity, team-work and presentation skills.”
Adaptable for any age, this design challenge is perfect for eighth graders as they learn about the difference between speed, velocity, and acceleration. Here are some other ways to tie the challenge to TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) topics:
- 6th Grade TEKS – frame the use of helium gas into a lesson about how matter classifies into elements; talk about how we’re running out of helium in a discussion of how energy resources are renewable, nonrenewable, or indefinite
- 8th Grade TEKS – link to a lesson about the Periodic Table; talk about the difference between speed, velocity, and acceleration; Newton’s Law of Inertia could be a good opportunity to talk about how the airship works versus how a spaceship works, and compare the friction of air acting to slow down the aircraft, versus the vacuum of space allowing a spacecraft to continue moving
- Astronomy TEKS – use for a lesson on space exploration: adapt this and have the students imagine they are designing a spacecraft instead of an aircraft (they’ll use helium still, but many of the principles are the same as a fuel rocket or an ionic rocket engine)
- Earth and Space Science TEKS – talk about the problems of harvesting helium and how it is linked to the production of natural gas; for a lesson on the Hydrosphere (polar ice caps, glaciers, etc.) you can use the story in the Design Challenge about the airship providing supplies to researchers at the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica; link the part of the story about shifting ice floes to a discussion of global temperature trends and climate predictions
- Environmental Systems TEKS – use for a lesson about the Antarctic Treaty System; use the helium gas shortage for discussion of non-renewable source depletion predictions; use story in Design Challenge about Antarctica’s shifting ice floes to talk about climate change and weather conditions, including El Nino and La Nina oscillations
- Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) or Physics TEKS – talk about the invention of airships and the disaster of the Hindenburg to launch a lesson on the history of physics and chemistry and contribution of scientists; use airships to describe/calculate object motion in terms of position, displacement, speed and acceleration; measure/graph distance and speed as a function; assess relationship between force, mass, and acceleration; reaction forces; use the buoyancy of helium to start a lesson on the physical and chemical properties of elements
- Welcome your students to check the Antarctic weather conditions at McMurdo right this very moment from their live science webcam and weather station. Depending on their observations, students decide to pitch different ideas in their design presentation.
- Plan a brainstorming session after the project to ask students what other ways they could use their airships, besides taking emergency supplies to Antarctica. Next, share this 5-minute TED Ed video, High-Altitude wind energy from kites, and then ask them again to brainstorm more ideas. TED Ed also provides multiple choice and open-ended questions, discussion topics, and options to customize your lesson.
- You can also help your students identify with engineers by drawing attention to how one of the young people in the audience at TED Youth events designed his own airship using 3D graphics.
Students collaborate to design and build their jet powered blimp at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the Host and Presenting Sponsor of the 2015 TAME State Math and Science Competition.
Concepts for our Engineering Adventures often come from our idea boards on Pinterest. If you liked these, you’ll love our Engineering: Activities for All Ages board!
With over 3,000 pins organized into 46 different boards, TAME’s Pinterest presence is specially curated to help teachers, parents, and students of all ages get excited about STEM.