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Brief Description: Students will explore the construction of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the design of its primary mirror. This activity outlines three engineering issues. Teachers may choose to explore any single issue or all three. What is the best way to make a large mirror that can go into space? How can we get the telescope to fit in the launch vehicle? Will the telescope survive launch?
How does the lesson relate to STEAM education: This Engineering activity can be related to larger science themes of the Universe, and includes a strong mathematical connection to tessellations.
Age Range: 10 to 14
Didactical Hours: up to 3 by 45 min sessions
Learning objectives: The students will:
- appreciate some of the constraints when launching a space telescope
- review the structure and functions of a telescope
- use mathematical reasoning to explain why the JWST’s primary mirror has been designed with hexagons
- construct a folding model of the JWST (optional: design and make their own version of a folding telescope)
- create and carry out a shake test of their model
Relation to the Big Ideas of Science:
Energy > Energy and Forces > Electromagnetic radiation and radiant energy: Telescopes use mirrors to reflect light.
Forces > Forces and Motion > 3-dimensional motions: JWST will remotely unfold to its final configuration and has been designed to withstand the forces and vibrations of launch.
The Polar Star consortium is grateful for the input of the Star Advisors, who helped to choose the star topics. We would like to warmly thank Star Advisors who provided valuable ideas, materials and feedback for this particular activity: Karen Billingham, Dr. Semra Demircali, Maria Eleftheriou, Paula Galvin and Daniela de Paulis.