Lesson: Testing the Caverns

Contributed by: Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Two artists' drawings show an asteroid about to entering the Earth's atmosphere and about to impact a coastline.
Students build and test model caverns
copyright
Copyright © Don Davis, NASA http://www.donaldedavis.com/PARTS/K-TNASA.jpg http://impact.arc.nasa.gov/images/mm_gallery/coastline_jpg.jpg

Summary

Concluding the Asteroid Impact challenge, students build model caverns and bury them in a tray of sand. They test the models by dropping balls onto them to simulate an asteroid hitting the Earth. By molding papier-mâché or clay around balloons (to form domes), or around small cardboard boxes (to form rectangular structures), students create unique models of their cavern designs.

Engineering Connection

A vital part of the engineering design process involves testing possible and final solutions. This often involves building scaled models of a design solution and testing it. Lessons learned from the testing informs further improvement in the design evolution.

Learning Objectives

  • Create a model using papier-mâché.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a structure against impact failure.

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Testing the Caverns

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Test and evaluate the design in relation to pre-established requirements, such as criteria and constraints, and refine as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop and communicate an evidence based scientific explanation around one or more factors that change Earth's surface (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Analyze and interpret data identifying ways Earth's surface is constantly changing through a variety of processes and forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, deposition, solar influences, climate, and human activity (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Gather, analyze, and communicate data that explains Earth's plates, plate motions, and the results of plate motions (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Introduction/Motivation

Now that all your hard work is done, we are going to build model caverns and test them!

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

Show students photographs of actual impact craters on Earth and the Moon.

Associated Activities

  • Testing the Caverns - Student teams use papier-mâché and/or clay to create scaled-down versions (models) of their underground cavern designs. The models are tested by burying them in a sand pit and dropping balls from high above, to simulate asteroid impacts.

Assessment

In a concluding discussion, ask students to share their observations of what happened to the various models in the simulated impacts. With what they learned, would they make any changes to their teams' final cavern designs? If they had more time, what other tests and data could they do and obtain to further good decision making to create safe underground shelters?

Lesson Extension Activities

To better align this lesson/activity to the various rock types found in Alabraska, provide additional impact testing materials, in addition to sand. Use flour to represent a softer material, sand to represent a moderately strong material, and gravel to represent a harder material. Have students select an impact material based on what rock type they decided to build their cavern in, or each group could pick an impact material at random for the sake of experimentation.

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Acknowledgements

Adventure Engineering was supported by National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 9950660 and GK-12 0086457. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 6, 2017

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