8-10 yrs old
11-13 yrs old
Students will explore how solar energy powers the ISS. They will also understand how robotic tools help astronauts fix items in space.
June 1, 2020
How Solar Energy Powers the Space Station
Astronauts performed emergency repairs on space station solar energy panel
NASA Mission X: Crew Assembly
Steve Spangler Science: Solar Over S’mores
International Space Station Minecraft World
In this lesson, students will briefly explore solar energy and learn how it powers the ISS. After completing a group challenge, students will use develop a code in Minecraft to have their agent build/replace solar panels.
• What is solar energy?
• How does solar energy benefit the ISS?
• How can you create a code in Minecraft to have your agent build/replace solar panels for the ISS?
Teacher Preparation & Notes
1. Download the Minecraft: Education ISS world and explore it on your own.
2. Watch the videos How Solar Energy Powers the Space Station and Astronauts performed emergency repairs on space station solar energy panel to understand how solar energy powers the ISS and to see how an astronaut fixes a damaged panel in space.
3. Read over the Mission X: Crew Assembly and solar oven activities.
4. Decide if small groups will be created by the teacher or the students.
5. Gather materials for the group puzzle competition Mission X: Crew Assembly (#1) and the solar oven (#2). Items with an asterisk (*) should be gathered PER GROUP. The solar oven activity can be done in small groups or as a class.
a. *Puzzle - try to find the larger ones with ~48 pieces and label them according to the activity instructions (#1)
b. *Thin cotton gloves (#1)
c. *Thick winter gloves (#1)
d. *Pizza box (#2)
e. *2 clear page protectors (#2)
f. *Black construction paper (#2)
g. Clear packing tape (#2)
h. Box knife (#2)
i. Scissors (#2)
j. *Glue (#2)
k. *Aluminum foil (#2)
l. *Ruler (#2)
m. *Pencil (#2)
n. Graham crackers (#2)
o. Chocolate bars (#2)
p. Marshmallows (#2)
q. Writing paper
r. Writing utensils
s. Chart paper
Estimated time: 60 minutes (time will vary depending on how long it takes for the solar oven to cook the S’mores)
1. Students will gather as a group and discuss what they know about solar energy and the teacher will collect their ideas.
2. The teacher will ask students what they think solar energy panels could be used for on Earth? On the ISS? Partners will discuss and share out.
3. After the discussion, students will watch the video How Solar Energy Powers the Space Station and the teacher will add any new information they gathered on the chart paper.
4. Next, the teacher will explain that they will be using solar energy to cook their own S’mores in a solar oven made from pizza boxes. The teacher should use a box knife to cut the top opening of the solar oven beforehand.
5. Once materials have been passed out, the students will work to create their own solar ovens according to the activity instructions after Step 1. The skewer kickstand is not required, but it may be added to the project.
6. After ovens are set up and placed in the sun, the students should make predictions for how long it will take to cook their S’mores, recording these estimates on chart paper.
7. Once the S’mores are done, the students can enjoy while discussing how solar energy worked to cook them and if their estimates were correct!
Estimated time: 60 minutes
1. Begin by reviewing solar energy, their solar oven experiment, and how solar energy powers the ISS.
2. The teacher will then explain that sometimes the solar panels become damaged and the astronauts must repair them.
3. Students watch the video Astronauts performed emergency repairs on space station solar energy panel (trim video if necessary). The teacher will ask students to observe what the astronauts wear on their hands and to imagine what it would be like having to repair specific things using those large gloves.
4. After watching the video and discussing, the teacher will introduce the NASA Mission X: Crew Assembly activity to students.
5. Once the activity has been successfully completed by the small groups, they will reflect on the experience.
1. Students will review solar energy use on the ISS as well as what happens when these panels become damaged.
2. The teacher will tell students they will work in small groups to design a code in Minecraft that directs an agent to replace/build solar panels.
3. Students will work collaboratively in a flat world to create and test the code. Before beginning, groups should research what the solar panels on the ISS look like. The code they create should make an agent build something that resembles the panels.
4. After they have successfully created a solar panel using code and their agent, the students will then learn how to teach their agent to replace missing (damaged) panels. Students will need to break various panels and determine a way to get their agent to recognize and replace those that are missing.
• Informal observation by teacher during class/student discussions
• Informal observation by teacher during Mission X: Crew Assembly and solar oven activities
• Students will use the camera to take images to put into a book and quill explaining their process. They should also take a screenshot of their code to share.
• Students should use the camera to take images to put into a book and quill explaining their process. They should also take a screenshot of their code to share.
• Student evidence of learning with book and quill downloads and coding screenshots
o These can be placed in OneNote, PowerPoint, curated in Wakelet, etc.
As an extension to this lesson, if students can find their way outside of the ISS in the Minecraft world, they can try to code a solution to replacing the solar panels using their agent.
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