Why is Water Sphere-Shaped in Space?
This project about how water behaves in space was adopted by the NSTA’s Daily Do projects that they distribute for free to help students who are working from home keep learning science. We see fluids, gasses and liquids everywhere in our lives. The Earth, known as “the water planet,” is able to support life in part because of the presence of water. Understanding the basic principles of fluid motion such as with water, is important for all walks of life. Watching the behavior of water on the International Space Station (ISS) is not only mesmerizing and beautiful to observe, it also helps researchers to figure out why fluids behave differently in micro-gravity than they do on Earth. The near-weightless conditions aboard the station allow researchers to observe and control a wide variety of fluids in ways that are not possible on Earth. By understanding how fluids react in these conditions, researchers can come up with improved designs for space travel, as well as back on Earth.
In this project, Why is Water Sphere-Shaped in Space?, students engage in science and engineering practices to make sense of the phenomenon of liquid water forming a perfect sphere-shape in space. Students see how the science ideas that explain water's sphere-shape in space are applied to the design of the Space Coffee Cup and then brainstorm solutions to other problems astronauts encounter that will help people live in space! While students could complete this task independently, the Project Pals platform helps them work virtually with peers and collaborate with them in real-time on this assignment.
The project starts with students watching a video about the way water behaves in space. They then have to type up observations and questions about what they saw and heard in the video by using the sticky notes and questions posted in the workspace.
The next task is for students to understand and create an initial model to explain why the water squeezed from the pouch formed a sphere that the candy was able to stick to/sit on. But before creating the model, they need to determine what absolutely needs to be included in their model or what are the components of the model (water molecules, forces, molecular bonds, air, candy). Students also need to show how the components of their model are interacting. Students use the components tool to describe the characteristics of model components and the events tool to describe the way they interact with each other.
Students then move on to an image of the model and use the information they gathered using the components and events, to drop relevant information on the workspace and turn them into annotations placed on top of the model, explaining in detail the phenomena of water surface tension. After understanding how the model works, they also respond to the questions on the left.
In the next tab, students are performing a NASA investigation at home. They will gather the needed materials and follow the experiment details. As they work on the experiment, they record each of its steps in the Surface Tension event and add images of each step to it. They also include their observations of what happens. An alternative way of recording observations is provided by using the sticky notes placed on the bottom left of the workspace. After finishing the experiment, students respond to the questions on the right by using annotations to save space.
Students then delve deeper into the phenomenon of surface tension by watching an additional video, which provides a more scientific explanation. Students get a chance to review their models based on the new knowledge they gathered and get back to it and change it accordingly. They also get to answer questions posted on the workspace.
A related phenomena of surface tension presents how astronauts drink their coffee or other drinks in space. They get to see a video about a coffee cup innovation that helps astronauts drink their coffee in space. It also helps students understand the engineering design process, which they will attempt to describe. They will also try to come up with an innovation of their own that can make an astronaut’s life easier in space and describe it.
Finally, students will look into the requirements for becoming an astronaut and the career path they need to take in order to get to be an astronaut.