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English Language Learners Family Engagement Night: Touchdown on the Moon!

By STEMbassadors Samantha Dix and Alexis Wachter

On March 22, 2022, 63 STEM learners launched onto the moon during our annual ELL Family Engagement Night. This night consisted of two different sessions, where Turkish and Portuguese families came together to brainstorm, design, build, and test their very own astronaut lander in the Delran High School’s Innovation and Fabrication Lab. This event was run by Delran staff members including our very own ELL teachers, Fab-Lab Managers, Turkish and Portuguese translators, and high school student STEMbassadors.

Brainstorm and Design

Each family was challenged to design a shock absorbing system that would protect two “astronauts” from falling out of their lander. There were many factors that went into their designs such as springs, cushions, balance, and stability. Families also had to take into account the different materials they were granted. Once an idea was sparked, the students began to put their ideas down on paper. They had 10 minutes to draw as many models as they could imagine. Some students even went as far as doing step by step instructions on how they were going to build their models. Not only were they drawing, but they were also labeling the different materials that they decided on using.

The Building “Hands-On” Process

After the families were provided time to brainstorm and sketch together different design ideas that they had in mind, it was time to bring their demos to life! When ready, families were granted their own astronaut lander kit with several differing materials that could be used to their imagination. Such materials included a square piece of cardboard, three index cards, many straws, four rubber bands, a paper cup, safety scissors, tape, mini marshmallows, and two big marshmallows to act as their astronauts. Each family was given 30 minutes to design before the testing competition began. As the students started to construct their lander, referencing their drawn design, they did what all great scientists do, and realized how some improvements would need to be altered through the process of trial and error. Even when they thought their lander was the best it could be, many of the students continued to see what they could add on or take away for mass sufficiency.

Test, Evaluate, and Redesign

Once 30 minutes passed, the students were directed to a clear table where they would be able to test out their landers against the landers of their peers. Each student would be assisted by a STEMbassador who would hold rulers as the students carefully dropped their lander from the highest point. Smiles emerged when they got to see their astronauts safely land on the ground! Landers were dropped from 1 feet high, to 2 feet high, and some even succeeded in a safe landing from 3 feet high! Each student was awarded with a prize of freeze-dried astronaut ice cream on their way out, and the student with the most successful lander, consisting of a great height drop, fastest building time, and no damages, was awarded with an extra prize. We were all overjoyed to be able to witness the wonderful lander creations in action from our brilliant, young engineers! No two landers look or work the same!

Looking Ahead…

We would like to thank all of the wonderful families for participating in this exciting ELL Family Engagement Night. Be sure to SAVE THE DATE for the 2022 Delran STEM Fair on May 16th, 5:30pm at Delran High School. This event will take place throughout the gymnasium, Fab Lab, cafeteria, and will even be featuring our planetarium. Also, look forward to STEAM Camp and STEAM Academy in the Fab Lab which will run for 4 weeks, Monday through Thursday. The first week is July 11-14th and the final week is August 1-4th. Click on our programs to learn more about the different camps, and be sure to register soon. We are so grateful to finally be able to hold our in-person annual events, and can’t wait to show off all of our outstanding STEM discoveries!

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