Space Station

Build a model of the International Space Station
Grades 3-6

Since our first excursions into space in the 1960s to today, over 300 people from 26 countries have made journeys into space.  Our knowledge and understanding of the sciences required to live and work in space have grown by leaps and bounds since the first Russian cosmonaut orbited the Earth in the late 1950s.  Since that time astronauts have walked in space, landed on the moon, and journeyed into space with the Space Shuttle program. The success of the Space Shuttle program that started in the 1980s has made building of the Space Station possible through the use of the reuseable space shuttle, which can carry Space Station components, supplies and people into space with which to build the station.

The teacher should use the internet, if available, to view background materials for this activity.  Several key sites have been referenced, including one that illustrates drawings of components of the Space Station.  If desired, the teacher may have the students create models of their computer designs.  This will require materials such as cardboard paper rollers from paper towels, plastic bottles, glue, scissors, and other supplies generally available in the classroom.

The teacher may integrate this activity as a part of a larger unit on space. A discussion should precede this activity on the origins of the space program. The NASA website provides a good resource for this discussion.

Students will build a mockup of the Space Station using several basic geometric shapes and key features of the program.

Students will be asked to describe how they constructed their version of the Space Station.

Making the Scene:
* The student should start with laying down a grid from the Textures tool.  This will help the student align the various parts of the model as the station is constructed.
* Only geometric shapes including the cylinder, dome, and cube need be used for this activity (students may use others in the extension activities).  Ensure that the Stack and Magnet buttons are turned on.
* Build the body of the station first using the Scaling tool to fit pieces together. 
* The solar panels are constructed by using the button to design your own shape.  Build
a panel connector by making a small cylinder and placing it through the body of the station.
The panels will be connected to this piece.   Using the platform shape, layout the first dimension
of the object near the body of the station so that lining up the panels is easier.  Using the
Tilt, Lift and Lateral Move tools, position the panels into the correct orientation.
* Color the station body.  Place the grid texture on the solar panels.  Texture both backgrounds using the sky pattern.  Color one plane darker than the other to simulate space.  Add a sphere to model the Earth.

Students may be evaluated on a discussion of how they constructed their version of the Space Station model.

Written journal entries may be done to describe the Space Station activity and their
understanding of the background behind its development.

The printout of their model may be used as a part of a larger unit assignment.

Students are encouraged to look at and model other space exploration vehicles such as the Space Shuttle, Apollo, Mercury, Gemini, Soyuz, Salyut, or others.

Physical models can be constructed using cardboard and other available materials.

Students can conceptualize their own space exploration vehicles and discuss why they might be feasible.

Mathematics lessons (geometry) on space can accompany this activity.

Rotation and translation of the scene during development of the Space Station are highly recommended.  This is particularly helpful in putting on the solar panels.  Moving objects into another one will help determine where they are in the 3D scene (some things are not where you might think they are when viewing from certain angles, so it is helpful to turn the scene to obtain this information).
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