Skip navigation

Purdue Space Day Activities

We had a great time during the 2019 event! Check out the cool activities we had below.

Grades 3 and 4

Moon Buggies

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has landed astronauts on Mars, and they need your help!  Now that the astronauts have landed, they realized that they need a vehicle to drive around in. They don’t want to walk, after all.  NASA would like you to design a balloon-powered rover for them.

Stomp Rockets

Nearly 50 years ago, 3 brave men ventured beyond the friendly confines of Earth with a destination in mind: the Moon! How did Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins get there? On one the largest rockets to ever exist, the SATURN V. Learn about the incredible technology that enabled humans to reach for the stars, and try your hand at building your own rocket! How will you design your system that can fly the highest? After testing your rocket through a few launches, consider how you can change your design to get more altitude! Learn about rockets and the design process with Stomp Rockets!

Water Landing

Welcome NASA engineers and designers!  As you probably have heard we are working to put a human on Mars soon!  However, before we do that, we need to figure out how to get back.  We are testing a new space capsule for this purpose!  However, we need to work out the logistics of how we are going to safely land this capsule in the water.  This is what all of you are here to help us figure out!

Grades 5 and 6

Apollo 13

Cast your mind back 47 years – the year is 1970, and the fifth manned mission to the moon, Apollo 13, is well on its way. Three astronauts – Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert - are 205,000 miles away from Earth when part of their spacecraft explodes. Suddenly, they are in trouble - like sailors lost at sea, they are stuck, coasting through space in their crippled spacecraft, trying to survive long enough to make it home. However, things go from bad to worse when Mission Control realizes that their oxygen is running out. Every breath they take fills the spacecraft with carbon dioxide – their filters are used up, and they only have so much time before the air in their ship becomes toxic. To make things worse, the backup filters which could clean the air are the wrong shape to fit into the spacecraft.

YOU are an engineer in Mission Control. You and your colleagues are some of the brightest minds in the country and have been working tirelessly to help these three brave astronauts come home safely. Now you must do the impossible – build a new filter from nothing but the spare parts and garbage on board the spacecraft. In your boxes, you have the same supplies that the astronauts on board Apollo 13 have. Your task is to find a way to vent carbon dioxide from the machine to outside of the room. You have 20 minutes. Good luck!

Satellite Launch

Welcome to Launchpad 39! This is the site where the rocket that took us to the Moon first launched from in 1969. Today, we will be using this historic launchpad to send satellites to space. There are nearly 2,300 satellites in space! How do we transport these important devices to space? With lots of engineering and time! Try your hand at building and launching your own satellites. Additionally, don’t forget how important material selection is for engineering and launching satellites.

Water Rockets

Rockets are the vehicles that allow us to journey into space and to other worlds. They work via Newton’s Third Law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of chemical and electrical rockets, gases are expelled at very high speeds through a nozzle and this produces thrust that pushes the rocket forward. In order to lift off the ground, the rocket needs to produce enough thrust to counteract gravity and drag on the rocket. Launch rockets high into the sky using nothing but air pressure and a bit of water!

Grades 7 and 8

Mars Rovers: Purdue EPICS

The Mars rover is an automated motor vehicle that is controlled from NASA computers. Rovers have discovered so much information about the surface and the history of Mars. They are used in space missions for many different things such as taking pictures, looking for matter, and detecting radiation. Even though the Mars Rover is about 225 MILLION miles away, we can still control the vehicle by sending commands through the Deep Space Network. Similarly, the Mars Rover can send back data by talking to a nearby satellite, which then transmits back to Earth. 
In this activity you will work together to program a rover to navigate around a large map of mars.  Working in groups of eight, they will plot a course to waypoints on the map that will help them reach their destination.  To help them navigate, students will have access to a camera feed from the front of their rover that will help them orient themselves using landmarks on the map. 

For more information about EPICS, visit the EPICS web site.

Hydraulic Arm: Purdue EPICS

In this activity students will be tasked with assembling a hydraulic arm using IKEA-like instructions. Twenty groups of four will be split into two subteams and given instructions for separate parts of the hydraulic arm to assemble. Each group will work to create their part of the arm and then they will get together an work together to fit the two parts together and attach the hydraulics to the arm. Once the arm is complete they will work together to manipulate the arm with the syringes to pick up a cup.
For more information about EPICS, visit the EPICS web site.

Rogallo Wing

The Gemini spacecraft needed a way to get back down to Earth from space. NASA engineers settled on the Rogallo wing, a paraglider for astronauts! By understanding the principles of flight and designing the perfect wing, your astronauts will be able to glide gently to safety!