STEAM fair takes Grade 6 to Mars

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Jackson School is in high energy mode with the Annual STEAM Fair coming up on March 28, 2019.

Contemplating being an astronaut on a mission to Mars? If so, think about your body systems, and pack an experimental prototype for a healthy return to Earth. Come by Jackson School’s STEAM Fair and visit with Grade 6. These tech savvy students were challenged to imagine, invent, and design 3D prototypes for space travel with your health in mind; equipment to pop in a duffle bag or to build inside or outside a capsule.

“Many forces impact body systems in space. Exposure to radiation with space travel can cause a decrease in neurogenesis. The inability of the nervous system to make brain cells contributes to memory loss and weakens an ability to learn. Radiation can lead to psychiatric problems, cancer, fatigue, and DNA changes,” explained a trio of girls. They designed a layer of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that molded to the exterior of the capsule forms a barrier to radiation. Another group charged with the nervous system designed a capsule cover of three layers. The outer layer of fiberglass and the inner layer of polyethylene seal a dense radiation-resistant middle layer of pure helium. “These layers combined create a solid barrier against radiation exposure,” they add to clarify the purpose of their prototype.

“Over the past months in science class,” explains Mr. Derek Waarich who teaches science to his and Mrs. Jean Behenna’s students, “Grade 6 explored the functions and parts of six body systems and learned about the upcoming planned missions to Mars. Students formed small groups to research the negative effects of space travel on an assigned body system. Groups used Tinkercad, an app for 3D design on their laptops and iPads, to create prototypes for astronauts to utilize in space to counteract specific health-related problems. Finally, they print their models using the 3D printers in our Tech Lab.”  

A team probing issues with the circulatory system employed an idea to create a compression T-shirt to wear in gravity-free chambers to slow the rise of the blood flow from the feet to the head. Another trio working to keep an astronaut’s cardiovascular system strong and functioning explains that “the heart muscle shrinks in an anti-gravity environment.” This team is creating a structure that fits in the capsule and seals in artificial gravity. “As many as four astronauts can sleep in our model, their heart muscles pumping harder against the force of gravity.” The prototype also has a bicycle track circling its perimeter. Tires are fitted to the track, “so the act of pedaling is a workout for the leg muscles as well as the heart muscle.”

“Muscles shrink when they aren’t working against gravity, particularly leg and neck muscles,” comments a team assigned with the muscular system. This group is designing a prototype of a light-weight boot fitted with magnets on the bottom. “These boots will force astronauts to pick up one leg at a time as they walk the floor of the spaceship.” The group continues to adjust its prototype, hoping to find a way for the boot to work on a treadmill so that an astronaut does not need a harness.

Checking in with another group looking to prevent osteoporosis in the skeletal system due to the lack of gravity, these sixth graders designed artificial gravity chambers throughout the capsule, reserving one gravity-free chamber for the astronaut’s experimental work.

To bring their STEAM Fair research and engineering work to a presentation level, individuals within teams craft sections of their reports and a description and purpose of their 3D prototype. Then as a team, they proof each piece of writing for accuracy and consistency and move on to design their poster boards.

Grade 6 looks forward to visiting with you, soon-to-be astronauts, during the March 28th STEAM Fair to help you think about a prototype to pack for your Journey to Mars.




For more information on Fall 2019 enrollment at Jackson School, please contact Katy Denning, Director of Admission, 617-202-9772 or