July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Pre-College Engineering Education
In preparation of the NASA Artemis mission to the Moon, our team has created a series of multi-body dynamics modules for undergraduates on trajectory design. Additionally, we have created a complementary outreach activity targeted at elementary students. Multi-body dynamics is closely related to the concept of chaos where the same starting position can result in a completely different outcome. For example, trajectories designed to the Moon with the same starting conditions can dramatically change based on how you are propagating the solution forward. Beyond space exploration, chaos is a useful topic to introduce to pre-college students that may not be included in their typical curriculum. Chaos can be applied to many different dynamical systems, such as weather, road traffic, and population growth. In this activity, participants observe the sensitivity of chaotic systems and compare their output utilizing common household items. The targeted audience for this activity is elementary school students, specifically in third or fourth grade. Due to the age range of participants, the project is simple to construct (although some adult assistance may be required) and takes between thirty minutes to an hour to complete. To first introduce the idea of chaos and its unpredictability, participants will attempt to balance a pencil vertically on their hand and watch as it falls to a different side every time. Next, after constructing a simple pendulum using a yardstick, yarn, and a plastic water bottle filled with colored water, they can “paint” the pathway of the pendulum’s simple harmonic motion as the water drips onto the paper below. Participants then will attach an element that adds air resistance to the system, thus creating a damped pendulum, and will map a second pathway in which the results are vastly different from that of the first run. Contrasting the two “paintings” will display how even the smallest of changes to a variable can lead to a different outcome, a piece to the puzzle of understanding chaos.
Busato, J. E., & Miskioglu, E., & Martin, K. M., & Guzzetti, D. (2021, July), Introducing Chaos in Elementary School; a Precursor for Multibody Dynamics Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37377
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