Niles students work on NASA project

NILES — Seventh-grade advanced science students have been working in collaboration with National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of a STEM — science, technology, engineering, mathematics — learning project.

Gaye Breegle, seventh-grade science teacher, said the 23 science students were placed in groups of three or four and were able to make land rovers from Inventor Cloud and then test the rovers by having them travel over different surfaces, such as sand, rock and a 10-degree slope.

”The students gathered their data and graphed the information,” Breegle said.

She said through testing the students could make adjustments and make changes to the rover’s wheels and treads to see if it could move across surfaces better.

Breegle said students are learning what works and what doesn’t work. Students identified the problem with their wheels and gear systems on different surface conditions, and recorded and measured distance, time and speed for various combinations.

Tristan Holbrook, 12, said, ”The fun part was seeing the rover move, or try to move, over sand and rock. Sometimes it would move depending on what surface.”

Thomas Rossi, 13, said, “It was hard for the rover to get over the rocks and 10-degree slope. We had to change the front wheels to see if it would move any differently.”

Chloe Soltis, 12, said, “It is a lot harder to build than it looks. Trying to put it all together took time.”

Cheyenne Zack, 12, said her mother was really surprised when she showed her pictures of the rover.

To make the rover’s wheels and other items, the students used a 3D printer in the school’s computer lab.

Breegle and teacher Dan Rogge attended a video conference in November to work with NASA and prepare to teach the students. Cameras were placed in the classroom so students could see the NASA people and they could see the students.

”They asked questions about the structure of the rover’s wheels, how it was put together and how it worked,” Breegle said.

She said students worked with Rogge on part of the project and the rest with her.

Assistant Principal Vicki Raptis said she and Principal Sam Reigle are pleased with the work Breegle has done with the students and involving NASA.

”It is a positive experience for our students,” Raptis said.

Each group took photos of the group members typing in information of what was going on, working and all the labs. The document will be sent to NASA showing the work students did.

Breegle said students learned NASA has operated rovers on Mars. The project’s focus is on ”Gaining Traction on Mars,” with the goal to explore Mars and to provide a continuous flow of scientific information and discovery.

Breegle said students also spent time doing research on Mars and the other planets before making rover wheels. They tested six rovers.

In addition, teams had to name their rover, create a team logo and in a five- to 10-minute presentation using charts, graphs and photos explain what the team did, how they used the NASA design process and the data they acquired.