The Engineering Behind the Deep Sea Challenger

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SWBAT identify the challenges that engineers had to consider when designing the Deep Sea Challenger.

Big Idea

No, it is not a space craft it is a submersible! Traveling to the deep ocean is like traveling to outer space and you need a specific type of craft to get you there.

Question for the Day: What deep ocean conditions would engineers need to consider when building a submersible that could travel to the aphotic zone?

15 minutes

Connections to NGSS

ETS1 - K-2 Engineering Design

This lesson highlights the problems engineers addressed when designing the Deep Sea Challenger, DSC. Students' schemas of engineers becomes more dimensional as students consider what engineers addressed when designing the DSC. I will connect this lesson experience when students tackle their engineering problem in the future lessons.

SP8 - How a diagram can support an engineering idea

Students make observations about how the engineers approached problems and challenges when designing the DSC. Students do not make a sketch but will be exposed to a schematic drawing of the DSC and take notes on how its design helps it function, i.e. dive and ascend, and solve a given problem. 

SP2 - Compare models to identify common features and differences

Students compare the common features and differences of the Trieste and DSC to learn how engineers built on this knowledge of the Trieste to design the next generation of deep sea submersibles.

Question of the Day - What conditions of the deep ocean would engineers need to consider when building a submersible that could go to the aphotic zone need?

By starting science with a question, I am exposing students to today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. We start science on the rug together. Students know that when they return from lunch, we meet on the rug to read our 'science question for the day'. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Today I have used the random sorter on the Smart Board to pair students with a 'discussion buddy'.

I am using the 'random sorter' so that students are sitting with students they may not normally choose to sit next to.

I ask students to check who the 'random sorter' has paired them with and to sit with this person on the rug and say hello.

This question has some vocabulary that may be unfamiliar for some of my students. So before I ask for students to discuss and share their answers, I want to be sure that everyone comprehends the vocabulary used in the question. I direct students to look at particular words used in the question and together we discuss the vocabulary in order to understand the question.

After 2-3 minutes I signal for students' attention. I call on a couple of pairs of students to share their ideas, asking the partner to tell me what the other one said.

I have been asking students to do this for a couple of weeks, because I had noticed that they were not really listening to what their partner said.

As students mention deep ocean conditions, pressure, darkness, no oxygen, I write these on the board. I will refer to this list later in the lesson as students begin to look at the constraints the engineers had to consider when designing the Deep Sea Challenger, DSC.

I point to the list, "If marine scientists were to explore the deep ocean, they would need to consider these constraints when designing a submersible that could take them down to some of the deepest parts of the ocean."

"Today we will look at what engineers designed that made it possible for a human to go to the deepest section of the Mariana Trench, called Challenger Deep."

Here is a short video of the Deep Sea Challenger submersible.

I click on the link that shows the trailer for Deep Sea Challenge with James Cameron. Yes it is theatrical, but it does show some of the images of the Marina Trench. It is exciting and will grab the students' attention.

Submersible Checklist

30 minutes

I point to the list of constraints that students shared, "Remember how how we wrote about the deep ocean conditions last week? Which of these ocean conditions did the deep sea animals adapt to?"

I build on students prior knowledge of deep ocean conditions that was introduced in the previous lessons, as they begin to consider what problems engineers had to overcome when designing the Deep Sea Challenger (submersible). I also want to plant the idea that engineers look to the natural world to help them solve problems.

"The engineers who designed the Deep Sea Challenger had to consider these conditions when designing the submersible.

"I wonder if looking at the animals that live in these conditions helped engineers, Jamers cameron and Ron Allum design the submersible that went to Challenger Deep?

"For instance, look at this model of a sperm whale, it dives like this. What does that remind you of on the DSC? How did it dive through the water? Horizontal or vertical?

Let's take a close look at the submersible to see how the engineers addressed some of the challenges of designing a submersible that could travel to the deepest part of the ocean."

I project the Deepsea Challenger link that illustrates the parts of the sub and pass out a copy of the Deep Sea Challenger schematic drawing for each student. They use this to label the different parts of the sub.

Providing the schematic for the students develops their concept for what schematic drawings look like so when they draw their 'schematic' for their 'soda cup lander' in the next lesson, they have a concept of how to execute their drawing.

For pressure we discuss the shape of the pilot sphere and the material to build the submarine. Then students label the pilot sphere on their copy and note the material used for the main part of the ship. I use this opportunity to connect the DSC engineering to what students learned about deep ocean animal adaptations to pressure, small body and the DSC pilot sphere. I point out that the material used for the submersible actually shrunk 2 -3 inches on the descent.

For darkness I show them where the bank of LED lights are on the submersible. Again connecting to the preveious lesson, to deep sea animals that have biolumenescence. Only we are using the lights to see, not to catch prey or to camouflage.

"Why did engineers design the Deepsea Challenger? What did James Cameron want to do?"

I am asking this question so students think about that is was for exploration, therefore the submersible will need to have tools to collect data and make observations. This will be our link to future lessons when students attach their observation tools to the submersible they will modify.

"Let's look at the DSC image to see what scientific tools engineers added and label these on our schematic drawing."

Next we discuss how the Deep Sea Challenger engineers studied the previous submersible, Trieste, to learn what could be improved on the Deep Sea Challenger. I show images of the Trieste, and a chart that compares the difference between the 2 submersibles. I ask students to look at the chart for a moment and be ready to tell me what they notice.

If not mentioned, I draw students' attention to the difference in time it took the submersibles to reach the bottom. I show an image on how both submersibles dove, Trieste is horizontal and DSC is vertical. Using a model of sperm whale, I compare how the DSC and a sperm whale dives, to illicit that scientists and engineers look at the natural world and use that knowledge to help with the design of human made products.

Deep Sea Challenger Tour Guide Notes

15 minutes

To help my students integrate the information they learned today and to provide an authentic way for students to articulate what they learned, they will share 3 facts about the DSC with family member for homework. This provides a home school connection and a way to reinforce speaking and listening of academic language.

I chose to present the task as students playing the role of a tour guide, to provide a sense of play and imagination, to take the usual task of summarizing and sharing information and presenting it in a way that may be more novel and authentic for the students.

If you could give your parent or family member a tour of the DSC, what would you want to share? Let's take a 'thinking moment' to consider what you would share.

"Tonight for homework, you will act as a tour guide for the Deepsea Challenger, and share 3 facts about the submersible. Sometimes tour guides have notes to help them remember what they will say."

"You will write your notes on this card. Use your schematic drawing and your labels to help you choose 3 topics that you will share about the DSC submersible. After you share your notes tonight, your family member will write his review of your tour." I show where the parent will sign their name and write a short review.

When you have finished writing your tour guide notes,you can draw a picture of the submersible on the other side of the card. Then practice saying your notes to each other."

I walk around the room, to see what students have chosen to write about.

When students have their 3 facts, I ask students to place their schematic drawing in their science folder, and bring their tour guide notes to the rug to share their 3 facts with a neighbor.

"Raise your hand if your partner explained how the DSC was designed to deal with pressure? with darkness? how it dove through the water?"

If I see some students not raising their hands for any of these prompts, I ask them what tour guide notes they wrote.

Then I dismiss students a couple at a time to place their 'tour guide notes' in their homework folder.