Seven teams of sixth graders were given the opportunity to have students show problem solving skills to NASA.
When the middle school students participated in an internet showcase of student solutions to engineering problems, leaders from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and U.S. Department of Education wanted them to know one thing: Scientists have a great appreciation for mistakes.
The teams were selected from 125 schools nationwide. Selection was based on engineering, creativity, and student data collection and analysis.
Students from Mullica Township Middle School analyzed their mistakes in slowing down a Mars lander. They combined a parachute with an X-sail below it to add drag and stability. The parachute didn’t fully inflate, and the flight was not stable. However some of the solutions caused more problems. “These were hard problems,” said astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman. “It takes a lot of patience.”
“Failure is not bad, it just helps you figure out which place to go,” Ellen Lettvin, Robert Noyce Fellow in Informal STEM Learning in the Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement, told one team. “I like you made that very clear.”