This is a fantastic lab activity that I was introduced to at the Space Academy for Educator's at the US Space and Rocket Centre in Alabama,USA.
It is a magnificent team building exercise, where children are challenged to take a sample of 'astronaut urine' and process it so that it becomes clean drinking water.
The workshop begins with a presentation that introduces the ECLSS (Environmental Control and Life Support System) which is found on all spacecraft that carry humans. The presentation is below and has been slightly changed to tie in with Tim Peake's mission to the ISS - it is quite technical but can be easily adapted to suit different ages of children.
The photograph to the left shows all the resources you need to run this lab at one of your camps, there is quite a lot of items but it is worth the effort to gather them together. The children get to use their maths skills too because each team has 1200 credits which they can spend at the shop to buy the materials they need to process the urine.
At the end we have tested the samples for pH, efficiency and clarity although you could test for conductivity too. The final scores are totalled with teams getting bonus points if they haven't spent all their credits.
The main method for purifying the sample is filtration so this activity fits in beautifully with the Year 5 work on separating techniques.
Resources and Links
- The presentation we have used to deliver this workshop can viewed here.
- You will need a budget sheet and score sheet to run the activities and they can be downloaded here.
- The Space Academy for Educator's lesson plan with detailed instructions of how to set up this Lab can be found here.
- A fantastic video tour of the ISS toilet with ESA Astronaut Samantha Christoforetti can be viewed here.
- Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's description of the ISS toilet is also very entertaining, you can view that here.
With thanks to the Space Academy for Educators team at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.