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Rough Science 3: Spacesuit challenge

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Problem solving
Topic: Heat

Students pick up on the excitement of reality TV by becoming back-up teams for the scientists challenged in the BBC/Open University Rough Science TV series. In programme 3, the Rough Scientists have to design a spacesuit to keep one of them cool in the 50�C+ temperatures of Death Valley. The activity gets pupils to look critically at some design ideas for spacesuits. They then plan what to say, and produce an energy transfer diagram, to explain on TV how the Rough Scientists' spacesuit works. To try the activity

Published: 22nd January 2005
Reviews & Comments: 3

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11-14 (KS3)
Scientific enquiry
Heating and cooling QCA 8i: energy transfer is the result of temperature difference. Heating is a process where energy is transferred. Conduction and radiation.
Energy QCA 9i: energy conservation. Explaining energy transfers.

Running the activity

The best way to start all the Rough Science activities is to show the beginning of the Rough Science programme where Kate Humble sets the challenges, and the five scientists come up with ideas. Then the students discuss possible solutions to the challenge. After they have completed the activity, you can compare the students' solutions with those of the TV scientists by showing the end of the programme. In this starter and main activity, pupils are presented with one of four possible solutions to the spacesuit challenge. They explain how their suit will keep the person cool, and then discuss the relative merits of each suit, and predict the solution that will work the best. Page 1 sets the scene and suggests science ideas that pupils could use to start to discuss possible solutions. It can be printed onto a transparency or projected. Page 2 sets the task. Pages 2 and 3 then show 4 possible solutions to the challenge. There are two ways of running this part of the activity:
Groups explain for a TV audience how each of the suits will keep the person cool, discuss their relative merits and predict the solution that will work the best
Each group of pupils is given one possible solution. They prepare a short talk to explain how it keeps the person cool, and then say how well they think it will work. Page 4 shows the Rough Scientists' suit and explains how it works. Pupils are asked to draw an energy transfer diagram to support their own explanations of the Rough Scientists' suit for a TV audience.

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Rough Science
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Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Jun 3rd, 2009

4 Star

I did this as an extended project over 4 lessons with a second set year 8 - first lesson to design their suit, including writing about the science, second to make it on a barbie/action man, third to test it using data loggers and fourth where they presented their results and designs to the rest of their class. They worked in teams and nearly all the class were really engaged with the activity, by the end even those who said they hated this sort of work were getting involved. Useful practice in using data loggers and collecting results and discussing "fair tests".

Reviewer: julie curran

Spacesuit challenge

Dec 3rd, 2007

5 Star

I saw this idea and slightly adapted it by asking my students to produce a model (either 2D poster or 3D) of their spacesuit using materials such as tinfoil, bubblewrap etc and the information from UPD8. This took one or two lessons.They were then asked to present their spacesuits at the "Spacesuit conference". As they presented they had to explain how the spacesuit worked to the other scientists. They were then judged on their presentation on areas such as science used etc. The scientists attending the conference then voted on whether they would buy each design and winners announced at the next lesson. As we set up the lab as a conference suite the students got into their roles and really enjoyed the challenge. This was done with a middle ability group.

Reviewer: Julie Bradley

year 8 heating and cooling

May 6th, 2007

2 Star

Unfortunately, most of my mixed ability group with a heavy bottom-end were not engaged with this activity and they saw it as a chance to have a break and a chat. I dont think the activity is at fault. It depends on the children on the day whether they will be up for this kind of thing.

Reviewer: Holly Singleton