Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
Forest Grove Elementary students apply themselves to learning how we can live on the moon (copy)

Forest Grove Elementary students apply themselves to learning how we can live on the moon (copy)

  • 0

When Forest Grove Elementary School sixth-grade students pulled back the cover, the objects revealed were a series of discs, ovals and spheres made of cardboard, tin foil and other materials.

The items, neatly lined up on a counter in the school, modeled the concepts and processes they went through to design a moon rover for America’s planned return to the lunar surface.

Turns out the most important parts on the rover were the wheels, which would have to survive and effectively function in moon dust, said Samantha Holmes, Callie Bulman and Beau Blackburn. According to their research, lunar dust is much more obstinate and damaging than its terrestrial counterpart.

Their final design was called mesh memory alloy tire.

“This is able to easily adapt to rocks in the way and then it will shape back into its normal spot,” Bulman said.

It was represented by the last object in the line, a drum-shaped framework wrapped in a see-through gauzy material.

The team also learned there is a substance that repels moon dust, so they incorporated it into the design.

“We’re coating it on the wheels and on the rover,” Bulman said.

The trio was one of several teams of Forest Grove students solving the larger problem of inhabiting the moon by tackling smaller problems. Others were working on transportation at different levels — a maglev train and the astronaut’s spacesuits. Others were working on a greenhouse, a mental health space and a mining/crane rig for gathering raw materials on the moon.

The program was a partnership between the district and the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency with the assistance of the Quad City Engineering and Science Council and Steven Smith, an education specialist with NASA.

All of the other teams also had cardboard mockups of their concept, or small models — with working parts. The maglev tracks had magnets to show how the system works; the spacesuit, a working communicator that could send simple codes; and the crane on the mining rig worked.

Each team gave presentations on their final concept and the learning process they underwent to reach it. That process included studying recent and ancient history for inspiration and context on how people survive and face challenges to their efforts to survive.

“They had to spend a great deal of time learning how to figure out how to identify a problem,” Aaron Maurer, one of the project’s coordinators, told parents and other visitors ahead of the student presentations. “You’re going to see the learning journey tonight. The learning journey is the most important thing in this whole presentation.”

Incorporated into the process were concepts Maurer, STEM lead for Mississippi Bend, called the “universal constructs.” These were flexibility, communication and critical thinking. Their instructors advised them, but the decision-making process, whether it worked or not, belonged to the students.

Forest Grove Principal Chris Welch said the constructs, including problem solving, collaboration and creativity, were elements the school tried to incorporate into the curriculum to make students’ learning more authentic and real.

“How do we put up guard rails and yet allow them to have voice and choice in what they do and how they do that?” Welch said.

Those skill sets will be important for the students in the environments they will go into in the future, Welch said. That includes their future education and careers.

Each team's final products were awesome, but they failed over and over again to get there, Maurer said. They, however, did not quit.

“They owned their learning,” Maurer said. “They were in the driver’s seat.”

The student teams were frank about their failures, incorporating them into their presentations as much as their final result.

For the rover team, their concept was too big at first, Blackburn said. They tried to include all sorts of tools and amenities for the crew.

That, Blackburn admitted candidly, was the wrong direction for their effort.

“It was just a lot of pieces jumbled together,” Blackburn said.

So they narrowed down their focus to one problem — the wheels.

They tried several versions of the wheels, including tank treads and the wheels on NASA’s Mars rover. Treads are for heavy vehicles, not light ones like a rover, and the terrain on Mars is different to that the astronauts would face on the moon, so the Mars design would not be ideal for a moon rover either.

Another idea they discarded was the spike tire — a sphere studded with protrusions meant to pull the rover along. The stuff moon dust is composed of would have defeated the tire.

“The spikes would break,” Holmes said.

Blackburn said they would be able to apply the problem-solving process they learned during the project to other things.

“Everything that we’ve done throughout this year, it’s helped us grow and pivot, adapt and adjust and learn differently,” Blackburn said.

Bulman said they definitely learned how to use communication and communication needs to be valued.

Holmes agreed communication is valuable, but she said she also learned about miscommunication — not understanding what was actually conveyed during an interaction.

“It has to have all the parts of communication,” Holmes said.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News