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Down to the Core Challenge

4 minutes

I'm Nate from Design Squad, and I'm here with... We're collecting samples from an asteroid. This is our asteroid. Scientists call this a core sample. We can't travel to asteroids to collect samples yet, so NASA sends rovers to do it. Those machines travel to planets and asteroids to collect the core samples. The Curiosity Mars Rover has a drill on an arm that it uses to collect core samples from Mars. Studying core samples helps scientists determine what conditions were like at the beginning of our solar system five billion years ago. These machines collect core samples from the surface of potatoes.

(Arun) These tools will collect core samples by driving a straw into a potato slice. We got straws, elastics, clips, Popsicle sticks, and skewers and cups.

(Nate) There's lots of ways of getting the straw into the potato. Tell me about your core sampler. This will spin into it like a drill. I stab down and pull up. You're drilling in. The straw's crumpling at the end.

(Dylan) That failed. Crunch. I'm building one with a rubber band that can pull up and shoot into the core. Also this straw is stronger than the one I used before, so it won't crumple when getting pushed into the core sample thingy.

[boys chuckling]

Okay. It's not quite reaching. Let's take a look. As you were pulling it backward, those rubber bands were just sliding along. If the rubber band's not holding the straw, it can't stretch back. If you can stretch it back, you can release it and punch the core. It went straight through. You added a binder clip on the end and that increased the mass of the driver on the core sampler, adding more force to drive the core sampler into the potato. It worked really well. Ow! My foot! That's working pretty nicely now that you've got that rubber band on. Let's try it with a full-size potato asteroid. Hmm. The skin is a little tough. Figure out a way to add more energy to the core sampler so that when it's punching through, it can get deep and through that skin. We can rubber bands to make the straw push in by itself. Nice. I like it. You can store up potential energy, which can be released as kinetic energy to drive that core sampler in. Let's do it. Okay, let's do it. And there's the sample inside. Now I wanna supersize these core samplers to get some samples of a pumpkin. For instructions on how to build your own core sampler and for other cool activities related to NASA missions, Ooh! check out the Design Squad website. Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Analyzing samples from a planet, moon, or asteroid helps scientists learn about its chemistry, geologic history, and potential to support past or present life. Nearly every NASA surface mission collects samples. In this video from "Design Squad Nation," students design and build coring devices that can poke into a potato "asteroid" and extract a core sample. The students use the engineering design process, apply a variety of science concepts, and learn about NASA's exploration of the solar system. Part of the "Design Squad Nation" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 4 minutes

Design Squad Nation
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Design Squad Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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