NASA Engineering and Science Activities

NASA offers a rich variety of resources and activities for engaging young people in STEM.  Below is a list of our favorite hands-on science and engineering activities and challenges.

NASA BEST Activity Guides
Grades K-8

Description: The NASA BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science, and Technology) Activity Guides have been designed to bring the principles of engineering alive to younger audiences. The activities can be used in afterschool clubs or youth programs; as a set or individually.

Engineering Design Challenges: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber 

Grades 4-8

Description: This activity combines engineering design with plant growth whereby middle school students learn about and apply the design process to develop a lunar plant growth chamber.

  • Subjects/Topics: Science: Plant Growth; Technology: Engineering Design, Modeling 
  • Essential Question: How do Newton's Laws of Motion apply to space exploration?
  • Keywords: Biology, Engineering Design, Plant
  • Careers: System Analyst, Biological Scientist, Agricultural Engineer, Structural Engineer
  • Professional Development: Training is available through live sessions or on-demand video.

Rockets Educator Guide: High Power Paper Rockets

 Grades 9-12

Description: Students construct paper rockets and test fly them. Students evaluate their designs, modify and fly them again to determine if their changes have affected the rocket's performance.

  • Subjects/Topics: Technology: Engineering Design; Physical Science: Forces, Friction, Center of Mass, Center of Pressure, Newton's Laws of Motion; Mathematics: Geometry, Trigonometry
  • Essential Question: Which design features were most effective in improving the flight performance of a paper rocket, and what caused the features to be effective?
  • Keywords: Physical Science, Geometry, Engineering Design, Forces and Motion
  • Careers: Aerospace Engineer, Structural Engineer, Material Scientist, Material Engineer
  • Professional Development: Training is available through live sessions or on-demand video.

On the Moon Educator Guide: On Target

 Grades 6-12

Description: Students follow the engineering design process to modify a cup to carry a marble down a zip line; test their cup by sliding it down the zip line; release the marble; try to hit a target on the floor; and use test results to improve their system.

  • Subjects/Topics: Engineering: Design Process
  • Essential Question: How can you use the engineering design process to construct a probe to hit a specific target?
  • Keywords: Engineering Design, Newton’s First Law
  • Careers: Engineer, Scientist, Mathematician
  • Professional Development: Training is available through live sessions or on-demand video.

Exploring Space Through Math: Lunar Rover

 Grades 8-12

Description: This activity focuses on the concept of minimizing distance and time. Students use formulas to calculate the distance and the time for a task. Students make a scale drawing of the mission and find distances between the locations using the Pythagorean Theorem.

  • Subjects/Topics: Mathematics: Algebra 1, Geometry 
  • Essential Question: How can you use the Pythagorean Theorem to plot the best route between locations on the moon's surface?
  • Keywords: Algebra, Geometry, Pythagorean Theorem, Vectors
  • Careers: Mathematician, Planetary Geologist, Scientist
  • Professional Development: Training is available through live sessions or on-demand video.

Engineering Design Challenges: Spacecraft Structures

 Grades 5-9

Description: The challenge is to build a model thrust structure that is as light as possible, yet strong enough to withstand the load of a "launch to orbit" three times.

  • Subjects/Topics: Physical Science: Engineering, Transfer of Energy, Force, Mass, Newton's Laws of Motion
  • Essential Question: Which design features are most effective in transmitting the force of launching a 1-kilogram mass (rocket) by means of a lever without damaging the thrust structure, and what made the design features effective?
  • Keywords: Physical Science, Engineering Design, Transfer of Energy, Forces
  • Careers: Structural Engineer, Engineering Technician, Material Scientist and Engineer
  • Professional Development: Training is available through live sessions or on-demand video.

Engineering Design Challenges: Water Filtration

 Grades 9-10

Description: Students propose filtration device designs, test them, make observations, collect data, and collaborate as they analyze results and attempt to identify the best filter media to use.

  • Subjects/Topics: Earth and Space Science: Waste Water Management, Chemistry of Water, Water Cycle; Physical Science: Engineering, Conductivity, Alkalinity, Mixture, Solution, Evaporation, Condensation
  • Essential Question: Which filter media most effectively improves the quality of wastewater? 
  • Keywords: Physical Science, Engineering Design Challenge, Water Cycle
  • Careers: Chemist, Hydrologist, Engineer, Technician
  • Professional Development: Training is available through live sessions or on-demand video.


NASA Education – Rocketry

Description: This website is devoted to learning about rockets.  There's a beginner's guide to rockets, a pictorial history of rockets, an index of rocket topics (including math and science fundamentals), and more.  It offers interactive features, including one on "building a rocket." 


Engineering Design for Human Exploration -- Energy and Power

Grades 9-12

Description: The unit of 5E (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate/Extend, Evaluate) lessons enhances student understanding of the engineering design process and its applications. Students will learn: 

  • To apply the 12 steps of the engineering design process in the development of a product or system to address surface power-generation problems in lunar exploration. 
  • To communicate information formally, including significant data, using current presentation strategies. 
  • To work collaboratively and safely to solve specific engineering design problems.




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Engineering Corner

Science Central's Ms. Tech Camp

With support from a Girls RISEnet Minigrant, Science Central, a hands-on science center in northeast Indiana, partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne and the Fort Wayne Urban League, as well as the general public, to host our first ...Read More

Privacy Policy | The Girls RISE (Raising Interest in Science and Engineering) National Museum Network is funded by Grant No. HRD-0937245 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Human Resource Development, Research on Gender in Science and Engineering Extension Services (GSE/EXT) Program. Project collaborators include the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) and SECME, Inc. The project seeks to increase the capacity of science centers and museums to interest girls from underrepresented populations in the engineering sciences