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Computational Thinking Project: Small Screen Application for Space Transfer Module

These classroom lessons include activities that teach students about things such as binary numbers; developing graphics, web-pages, animation software, and projects; and implementing team work. It also enhances students’ critical thinking skills and better prepares them to be college ready, career ready, and life ready.


Texas Tech University’s Department of Computer Science and the T-STEM Center received an NSF CPATH grant to explore how middle school, high school, and college students could work together on a project that teaches students to use computational thinking. In this project, students have the chance to explore ethics and computational thinking by designing an automated environmental control system inspired by the Earth-to-Mars Orion Crew Transfer Module. Although we used this project with students in several grade levels, it is also appropriate for students in one class or in one grade.

Teacher Instructions


Activity 1: Understanding the Environmental Control System

This activity focuses on helping the students understand the system to be developed.

Teacher Instructions | Student Worksheet | Feedback Control

Activity 2: Requirement Analysis

This activity focuses on helping the students determine the requirements of the environmental control system they will develop.

Teacher Instructions | Student Worksheet

Activity 3: Binary Numbers – Count the Dots

Every character that students input into the computer is converted into binary numbers and stored in the computer’s memory. Use this activity to help students understand the significance and representation of binary numbers as 0’s and 1’s.

Teacher Instructions

Activity 4: Recording Weather Data

With this activity, students will identify different weather parameters, the changes that occur with the values over a period of time, the change in pattern, the effects of such data on our day to day life, and ethical considerations in collecting and reporting data.

Teacher Instructions | Student Worksheet | Student Worksheet

Activity 5: User Interface Design

Students in this activity are considered designers. They will design the user interface for the environmental control system iPhone application.

Teacher Instructions

Activity 6: Malfunction Scenario

This activity simulates a malfunction in the environmental control system for the crew module. Students must take on a character's role, discuss solutions and communicate with mission control to make a decision for correction of the malfunction.

Teacher Instructions | Student Worksheet

Activity 7 & 8: Technical Analysis and Design

TThis activity focuses on the students’ understanding of the basic concepts in computer science. It will also teach them to perform technical analysis and design of the system to be developed.

Teacher Instructions | Student Discussion Worksheet | Student Design Worksheet

Activity 9: Designing and Programming using Scratch/Alice

Students use Scratch or Alice software installed on their computers to design the actors of the environmental control system and to implement the system.

Teacher Instructions

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