K-12 Outreach Highlights – February 2022

February 3 – Afflarbach Elementary School

Program:  Science Kitchen

Activity:  Inherited traits with pinto beans

Students built habitats for pinto bean ‘animals’ in order to explore how better camouflage and the ability to hide means better survival for prey.

Learning Goals:

  1. Animals with the ability to camouflage and blend in are more likely to survive and pass on their traits with future generations
  2. The color of animals tends to match or blend in with their surroundings (no purple bunnies!)

February 4 – Snowy Range Academy

Program:  Science Kitchen

Activity:  States of matter with liquid nitrogen

Students explored states of matter with liquid nitrogen and discussed why cold can make things brittle. In other words, we froze and broke many things!

Learning Goals:

  1. The three main states of matter are liquid, solid, and gas
  2. A gas will expand to fill the container it is in
  3. Liquid nitrogen boils at room temperature, changing state from a liquid to a gas

February 15 – Whiting High School

Program:  High-Altitude Balloon Program

Activity:  Balloon launch

For our first high-altitude balloon flight of the Spring 2022 semester, we visited Whiting High school in Laramie. Students developed their own payloads that included various experiments enclosed within plastic test tubes. The students made duplicates of each experiment. A control was mounted inside the payload box and another was mounted to the outside of the box and exposed to the environment during flight.

The experiments included:

  • Marshmallows (to see how they are affected by the environment)
  • Plant leaves (to examine the effect of sunlight, radiation, and ozone)
  • Pieces of metal (to see if their strength is affected)
  • Microbe swabs (to see if any microbes are captured at high altitude)

The entire flight (launch to land) was just over 2 hours in length. After launch, the balloon headed eastward and ascended to a maximum altitude of 90,096 ft above sea level before bursting. The minimum recorded temperature was –38°F and the maximum payload speed (a proxy for wind speed) was 96 mph. Eventually, the payload landed on a plot of private land just over the border in Nebraska, about 150 yards from a county road. We tracked the payload using this link.

February 15, 17, 22 – Space Wranglers at Snowy Range Academy

Program:  UW Senior Design

Students in Mrs. Kadria Drake’s class were introduced to one of UW’s Senior Design teams (the Space Wranglers) who were chosen by NASA to participate in the Micro-g NExT challenge. The team demonstrated how they followed the NASA Engineering Design Process while creating their device for the Micro-g NExT Challenge. They then hosted a “Reverse Gravity Anchoring Challenge” for students to participate in. During this challenge, they separated students into small groups and asked them to design a device that anchors a Styrofoam ball to the bottom of a large tub of water. Rocks and rough features were placed at the bottom of the tub to provide anchoring surfaces. Groups followed the NASA Engineering Design Process when designing, building, and testing their devices!

Learning Goals:

  1. Identify NASA Micro-g NExT program and its purpose
  2. Understand the purpose of the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) pool
  3. Identify the Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Experiment, and Improve stages of the NASA Engineering Design Process
  4. Understand the NASA Micro-g NExT challenge
  5. Understand the purpose of Cowboy Claw and what stage of the Engineering Design Process the Space Wranglers team is currently in

February 19 – Post-Planetarium Activity

Program:  Science Kitchen

Activity:  Star-life cycles

Held after the Saturday matinee at the planetarium, participants made bracelets with a color code that represents what we know about the life cycles of sun-like stars!

February 26 – Laramie 4H

Program:  Science Kitchen

Activity:  Liquid nitrogen

Students explored the properties of liquid nitrogen and its effect on various objects, culminating in creating delicious ice cream using liquid nitrogen.


February 26 – Post-Planetarium Activity

Program:  Science Kitchen

Activity:  Liquid nitrogen

Held after the Saturday matinee at the planetarium, participants explored the properties of liquid nitrogen, including looking at the Meissner Effect!