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Outer Space:
An Introduction to Space-Based Ideas in the High School Curriculum

Submitted

Dr. Wallace T. Fowler
Space Systems Design
Department of Aerospace Engineering
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas
by

Laura E. Bass
Department of Aerospace Engineering
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas

December 9, 1991

1.0 Introduction
High school is a tough time for many students. Most students find it hard to understand the relevance of geometry, algebra, and scientific measurements to the real-world problems of what to wear to the dance on Saturday night and if Johnny is going to call. However, most young people get quite excited by things related to the exploration of outer space. Educators try various methods to interest students in topics necessary as a basis for further study in technical fields, and one way to incite student interest is to relate the high school curriculum to the exploration of outer space.

The purpose of this document is to provide some some ideas of space-related topics for use in various high school subjects, provide sample problems which could be used within these curricula, and justify the use of space related ideas within the framework of the high school education. The document is written by a graduate student in the aerospace engineering area, with a background of work in the space industry and education in the engineering field.

Workshops have been held recently in which experts on the space program reached out into the local community to meet with teachers in order to inspire the teachers to use space-related ideas in teaching math and science, as well as provide the space experts with a fresh perspective on their work. One of these workshops was LiftOff '91, which was held in the Houston area in the summer of 1991. The teachers' objectives from this workshop [1] were:

  1. development of a space related curriculum document which is applicable to one of the their courses, and incorporated the essential elements of that course,
  2. incorporation of the appropriate parts of the LiftOff '91 materials into a unit of study in the classroom,
  3. the use of computer program materials to stimulate student interest and participation in science and mathematics with a focus on space related areas,
  4. facilitation of the sharing of LiftOff '91 materials with other teachers,
  5. take advantage of improved access to speakers and curriculum materials on space related topics,
  6. encourage an interest in science, mathematics, and engineering careers by using LiftOff '91 materials in the classroom.

The remainder of this paper provides ideas for problems to be used to meet these objectives.