Apollo 13 Project

So it’s been over a week since I’ve posted. Sorry about that. Things have been crazy busy.

Last week Turning Point Learning Center, the school I teach at, did a whole school project. It was the Apollo 13 Odyssey. We split students into groups to work on different aspects of the capsule. Some students worked on the measurements of the actual capsule and figured out what it would be half-sized, others then helped build it. While that was going on, a group of students were figuring out what actually happened that caused the problem, and what could have changed so that it wouldn’t have happened. One group was looking up artifacts from the Odyssey and building their own replicas. Some students were working on a website to display what they had accomplished. It really was exciting to see happen.

Well, I want to share my side of the story here.

First, Thursday morning I went into school like every other day, at 7am. Shortly after, Kevin Honeycutt came. (You can view his Apollo 13 site here) Kevin of course was running at 150 mph already and very excited. He shared with all the teachers his plan for the day and what his thoughts were. We looked at teams and how we would split the students out. We also looked at having students as leaders. We started to pick the leaders out of where we wanted them based on their skills.

Well, the students started coming in, and since they have worked with Kevin before, they were really excited about the day. The energy could be felt everywhere! As we started school at 8:30, Kevin was sharing with the students what we were going to be doing that day. Students were full of energy and ideas. We have the students time to talk with their tables about where they thought they would like to work for the day. During the discussions, we as teachers decided to let the students choose where they wanted to work instead of us assigning them. We walked around and talked with the leaders that we had planned to see where they wanted to work. They chose the places that we had thought about putting them. (It’s great knowing the kids well)

We then split the kids up and sent them to work. I went with the measurement team at first to help them get started on the measurements of the real Odyssey. The students had many different measurements for height and width. We started asking them their sources and also if they were all thinking of the same area. Sure enough, the sources weren’t perfect, and some were looking at the full ship while others were just looking at the command module. Once we got them all centered, we were on our way.

Once we got the measurements, it was our job to half-size it. What were the dimensions of what we were going to build be? They looked at it and figured that we would have a diameter of about 6 feet and a height of about 6 feet. Next thing we knew, we were being called to lunch.

Now lunch was not a sit down and eat and relax moment. Kevin had lined up for us to talk with the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center President and CEO Chris Orwoll throgh Skype. Not only did he talk to us about Apollo 13, but he was standing right in front of it. The kids were amazed at the sight and loved it! Kids were eating silently as he shared the story of the vessel and how they were able to obtain it, RIGHT HERE IN KANSAS! The students then had the opportunity to ask him questions to help them relate and build our capsule and artifacts.

After lunch the kids were eager to get back to work. I moved to the construction room to help out with the start of the building. Where did we have to start? The bottom. We got the measurements from the first team and went to work on finding cardboard large enough for it. 6 feet diameter is not the easy. Also, this is round. How do you make a 6 foot diameter circle? A compass is not large enough for that. The students figured out that they needed some string, a pencil, and a thumbtack to make their own. They found it all and made their circle. We then made a circle for the top. Believe it or not, that was the end of the day.

Everyone went downstairs for a debriefing before splitting for the day. The energy was up there. Students wanted to stay after school to watch the movie (the movie was playing all day in the rooms, of course they were busy working and couldn’t really enjoy the movie) so students set up movie parties at their houses so they could watch it!

I was so tired that I went to bed at 10pm that night. I didn’t wake up until 6 the next morning. Of course, I was back at school at 7 again Friday morning. Kevin was already there and writing all over the whiteboard what needed to get done that day.

The students hopped right back in where they left off. Our job in the construction room was to get it up off the ground, literally. We had the measurement team looking at how large the sides were going to be. Everyone decided to have 6 panels on the side so that we could split it into two pieces later when working inside of it. Well, as we were looking and thinking about the plan, we thought that 4 panels would be better and support more. So I ran over to the measurement room to let them know that we were changing to 4 panels.

The kids were all working at the board trying ti figure out the dimensions of the panel. They stopped and looked at me. I told them we were changing from 6 to 4 panels. They had a look on their faces. . . . .then said, “ok”. They then turned back to the board and started working to find the NEW dimensions.

After they figured the dimensions, we got to work on trying to figure out how to put it on cardboard. The students laid on the floor with Kevin and did some figuring. They found a way to have the bottom around 5 feet and the top around 3. They got one panel cut out, then started tracing that for the other 3 and cutting them out. It was now time to start duct taping them to the bottom circle to raise our walls.

Students started one from one side of the half circle (we had cut it in half to help when we were working inside). As students were taping that we took panel number two and started from the other end of that same half. UH OH!! We had about a 3-inch gap between the panels. We had to think fast. What did we do wrong? What can we do to fix this with the limited cardboard?

We decided to figure out the gap space and cut it out of the bottom of the circle, the tape the two halves (quarters of the circle) back together. However, if we did it to this half, we had to do it to the other half as well so that the two halves could meet back up later.

As we were working to put the panels up, I realized that our top circle was about a foot too small in diameter. So Kevin and I talked a bit about how to solve this. We decided that once we had all the panels up we would push the two halves together, have someone inside trace a circle on a piece of cardboard that we laid across the top. We got all the walls up on both halves, so we put a student inside and closed up the two sides. Several students and staff (including assistant superintendents who came to visit) pushed the sides together and held the top piece on as the student traced a circle. We took the cardboard off, looked at it, and wondered where the circle was. It was a very odd shape. We were lost on what to do.

We then took the old circle that was to small, cut it in half and taped it on the top of one of the halves the best we could. We then took extra cardboard and stuck it next to it to see how much we needed. I then took a meter stick (accidentally poked Kevin in the eye) and placed it on the board so that he could then draw a straight line. (Again, Kevin, I’m sorry for poking you.) We then cut that out, and made two pieces that were the same size (since we only had half the top). Kevin then had us take string and wrap it around the cardboard. This was helping us know what the circumference of the top needed to be. We then took that string and made a circle, cut it out, and taped it to the top.

At that moment I started walking from room to room to see what was going on. Students were everywhere buzzing about their work and showing off their progress. Next thing I knew, a student was selling (for free) a newspaper with breaking news of what was going on in the school. This was full of information about the students working on the Apollo 13 Project. What a great idea to share the information from around the school!!!

It was so neat to see the energy throughout the school and the students working! This experience is one that all should enjoy. Students grabbing ahold of learning and making something that they are proud of. I will never forget my first all school project at TPLC.

About Anthony Purcell

I am Anthony Purcell and I am currently teaching math in Oklahoma.
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1 Response to Apollo 13 Project

  1. Pingback: Taking a Look Back | Random Teacher Thoughts

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