Elementary Students do NASA-inspired experimentation in the Idea Lab

At all Grade levels, dedicated coaches integrate technology into learning. The Idea Lab is a space where students of all ages experiment with technology, computing and design.

Elementary Tech Coach Mr. Pat Frape runs a session on ‘Design Thinking’ inspired by NASA on ‘Spaghetti Towers’ for Grade 2 students. To complete this lesson, students build the tallest freestanding structure they can that will support a marshmallow for at least 15 seconds. Though a marshmallow might not seem like a significant mass to support, students will find the challenge when they are constrained to using spaghetti sticks and tape. 

The same forces, like gravity and wind, that engineers have to take into consideration when working on Deep Space Network antennas come into play when building a spaghetti structure. In small groups, students will quickly brainstorm their ideas and discuss strengths and weaknesses. Once the group selects a design, they will need to build, test and redesign to make sure it is stable and can support the marshmallow, all within the time limit of 18 minutes.

Activities such as ‘Spaghetti Towers” and the experimental atmosphere of the Idea Lab allows students to take the lead in creatively finding solutions to problems. As Mr. Frape puts it; “When the kids come to the Idea Lab they put a different hat on, they seem to leave some preconceptions at the door and know that they are here to design and build something that solves a problem”.