SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Small or Large
TIME: 45 minutes
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
CONCEPTS: Traction Surface Conditions Lunar Rover
SKILLS: Experimentation Collecting Data Modeling
Objectives: To help students understand the problem of getting people around on a loose surface such as the Moon’s; to apply that understanding to the construction of a land rover.

Materials: LONG cardboard box filled with dry, fine sand; Wooden plank; Toy car.

moon rover demonstration setup

Teacher Background Information: The moon rover, that dune-buggy, electric car that astronauts used on the moon, provides great motivation for students to explore the question of transportation on the surface of the Moon. If you ask students the question, “What would it be like to live on the Moon?” one of the responses would likely involve intra-moon transportation systems. And, as we live in a car society of self-contained, self-powered vehicles, capable of going anywhere at the driver‘s whim, the car might very well be the most common image in students’ minds. This concept and this interest can lead to all sorts of experimentation and quantitative data collection.

Set up the long cardboard box with the dry sand.

Ask the students to observe what happens when you send a toy car down the plank onto the surface of the sand. Ask them to describe what they know of the Moon‘s surface and how the astronauts overcame the problem of the loose surface.

  1. Instruct the students to break up into small groups of 3 or so to discuss what sort of rover they could construct that would move over the loose sand with ease. Explain they will be asked to place their “rover” on the end of the wooden plank and to measure the distance the device moves across the sand.
  2. Give the groups a few days to work out what they want to do and time to construct the rover. See if any of the groups ask to test the rover in your sand. If they ask, of course, let them!
  3. On the appointed day, have students bring in their rovers, set up the experiment and ask each group to run their rovers.
  4. Collect the measurements and graph the results.

Discuss with the class how each of the groups went about solving their problem. How did they arrive at consensus for the final vehicle? Did they pre-test before the big day? Did they have to rework any ideas?

Have the students discuss the idea of mass transit on the Moon. How might they go about adapting some of the vehicles they came up with? Why might it be very important to have mass transit rather than, or along with, “cars” that move people a few at a time?

As they visualize a moon colony, what does it look like, as far as transportation goes? What are some of the particular reasons for specific kinds of transportation on the moon colony? Are there any kinds of transportation they might need on the Moon that we don’t necessarily need here on Earth?

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