Finding and Supporting the E in STEM

Written by Sandra Weeks, McREL

To accomplish NASA satellite mission objectives, scientists and engineers much find a synergy between their disciplines. With the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), educators need to do the same. NASA Wavelength can help you appreciate the distinction between the two, how they work together, and how they relate to NGSS.

Working Together
Vital collaborations between scientists and engineers are central to every NASA mission. Scientists need engineers to help them measure and observe phenomena in pursuit of answers to the dynamic questions they ask about the workings of the universe - from planet Earth to the edges of the cosmos. In turn, engineers take scientific findings and apply creative thinking to come up with better, more reliable tools for scientists to use.

NGSS Strengthens Engineering in the Classroom
One of the ways the NGSS are different from prior standards is that they include explicit instructions about engineering (3). This allows students "to better engage in and aspire to solve the major societal and environmental challenges they will face in the decades ahead."(2) NGSS integrates engineering content in all aspects of the NGSS text, as illustrated below:

Classroom Resources to Support Engineering
For decades, NASA Earth and space science missions have developed educational resources that help teachers and students access not only the story of the mission, but also the engineering that is critical for its success. These resources help students to:

  • See how engineering supports the science mission
  • Understand the influence and impact of engineering on society and the world
  • Understand how the processes of engineering help solve problems or think about systems of components
  • Define a problem and help you know that you've solved it
  • Generate potential solutions to a problem
  • Build something or build and test something to solve the problem
  • Evaluate a solution to a problem
  • Improve or make the solution better
  • Speak, write, or in some other way communicate about the solution(s) to the problem

Want quick access to some great engineering lessons? Check out these samplers of engineering activities from the Wavelength collection:

Want more?

  • Try the following keyword searches in Wavelength and build your own lists:
    • "Design" or "Build" to find activities about spacecraft design
    • "Design challenge" or "remote sensing" for activities that discuss spacecraft functions
  • Find all of the engineering and technology-related resources here, and then filter this list by audience, instructional strategy, type of resource, learning time, and more.
  • Check out the interactive Wavelength strand map for Technology and Science to see how the concepts build through the grade levels and link to one another. The coding will easily lead you to a list of materials about the specific concept you are interested in.

Sources

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Discussion

Tschwerin's picture

Thanks Sandra - enjoyed the article!

One resource from the Wavelength collection that I'd also recommend is "Engineer a Satellite" at http://nasawavelength.org/resource/nw-000-000-002-814/. This activity is for upper elementary-middle school aged students, and is good for programs for families. Participants select the scientific instruments for their satellite, calculate the power requirements for all the subsystems, and construct a scale model of their very own Earth observing satellite using building blocks and/or Legos.

Darlene Yan's picture

We have great ones we use with middle-school students, I highly recommend them:

"Measuring the IMF (Interplanetary Magnetic Field)":
http://www.nasawavelength.org/resource/nw-000-000-001-768/

"Science and Engineering Conference":
http://www.nasawavelength.org/resource/nw-000-000-001-769/

After students learn about the interplanetary magnetic field, space weather and its effects on Earth and spacecraft, students then go through an inquiry-based activity and collaborate in small groups. They act as NASA scientists and engineers to design how an instrument can be attached to a spacecraft to measure the IMF without measuring the magnetic field created by the electronics onboard the spacecraft itself. They then explain and share their designs with their fellow scientists (students) in a mock science and engineering conference, and write a scientific report as their assessment.