Pop Up Makerspace at Hartnell College

By: Claudia Maciel-Contreras, Co-Site Director NASA MAA

Eighteen dual enrolled students stopped by to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). STEM was a new concept to them, they knew it had to do with math but that was it. Maggie Melone director of the K12 STEM Programs greeted them with a description of STEM and the benefits of pursuing a career in STEM. She makes STEM relevant by tying it to their everyday lives. If you have not heard her toilet talk, you are missing out.


Using an empty classroom we brought out some everyday supplies and gave the students an engineering design challenge. The students went from being students to becoming NASA Engineers. Their mission for the next 45 minutes was to solve the problem of making sure that the Astronauts arrive to the moon safely. Their cup rockets along with their marshmallow astronauts need to land gently and the astronauts need to remain inside the vessel.

Brainstorming: What kind of shock absorber can be made from the materials to help soften a landing? They had straws, mini marshmallows, tape, and index cards that can be folded into accordions to be more supportive.

How will you make sure the lander doesn’t tip over as it falls through the air?  They had to calculate the weight at the top and make sure the bottom is heavier so it doesn’t tip over as it moves down.

After 30 minutes of designing and testing they were ready to test their vessels. Some landed right side up and some were not as lucky.

They all had an opportunity to think and behave like Engineers. It was a very successful day.