Sunday, May 22, 2011

NASA Zero Gravity Bubble Experiment

When we decided to go for the Teaching from Space Flight opportunity I left it up to the students to come up with the experiment.  I had them watch a DVD that we got at Space Academy called Toys in Space.  Astronauts demonstrated how various toys worked in gravity and in microgravity.  They brainstormed after the video what they would like to test in both environments.  The winning idea was bubbles.  Kids love bubbles, they are inexpensive and our elementary classes could relate well to them.  We have also had some amazing help from a local scientist and data analyst.  Robert Bohlin from the NOAA weather station here in Flagstaff has come in to our classroom to help us work with the scientific method and Jonathan Wilkendorf from Lowell Observatory has been helping us collect and analyze our bubble data.  The student are learning a lot, but I am too!  From this experience I have realized that a lot of what I learned in my college elementary science classes just skimmed the top of the scientific method and looking back on my teaching I have been doing the same.  Jonathan and Robert have taught me a lot about ALL KINDS of different variables in our experiment that I would have never even thought of.  I am also learning so much about how to keep everything constant as possible so that the students have accurate data to report in the fall.  We are recording the bubbles using flip cameras and then using computer editing software to allow us to measure the bubbles and record their longevity down to the hundredth of a second.  Along the way we have learned that we need better lighting during our our taping because we weren't measuring correctly the size of the bubbles.  We needed to add a temperature and pressure sensor, and the latest that Jonathan realized from the videos is that the bubbles are not being created with a controlled amount of liquid.  The different sized bubbles mean that there are different amounts of liquid within those bubbles.  This is something we can't change at this point, but will be noted in our final report.  Jonathan told me that a lot of scientists usually learn something they never anticipated from their experiments.  I had never thought about that and I think it is pretty cool.  That is definitely what I am learning and it will help me be a better teacher down the road.  This has all been a lot of hard work, but I know it will be worth it to the students in the end.  

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