Education Technology

STEM Behind Life in Space

Fuel for the Fire

Ideally suited for middle grades and high school math and science, Fuel for the Fire promotes student engagement in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) practices that are critical for success in school and careers.

NASA and Texas Instruments (TI) developed this free TI-Nspire™ activity to give students a first-hand look at the STEM practices that make life in space possible.

Simulations included in the activity help them connect math and science, build reasoning and problem-solving skills, and investigate design processes.

Explore the math and science
of getting things off the ground

Ignite students’ interest in space-age careers with an innovative activity that encourages them to explore:

  • Constant rates of change
  • Linear functions in a scientific context
  • Volumes of cylinders in a scientific context
  • Relating rates with a linear function

Turn your classroom into a room full of rocket scientists

The Fuel for the Fire lesson puts students in the role of propulsion engineers tasked with designing and fueling rocket boosters like the Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage.

The SLS is the first exploration-class launch vehicle since the Saturn V rocket, which was used from 1967 to 1973 to launch Apollo moon missions and Skylab. Combined with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, SLS is designed to take astronauts out of Earth’s orbit.

“The heart of STEM is problem solving, and problem solving is so important in life, no matter what career path you choose.”

Jonathan Looser
NASA Propulsion Lead
Space Launch System Core Stage
Marshall Space Flight Center

The activity delivers immediate feedback to students, enabling them to self-assess and correct misconceptions. It also includes objective and subjective questions teachers can use to gauge student understanding during the lesson.

In addition to the math and science simulations, Fuel for the Fire includes a game that challenges students to land a spacecraft on the moon.

STEM education opens career paths that are almost limitless. -- Jonathan Looser, NASA Propulsion Lead

Jonathan Looser grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. It wasn't until a college pre-engineering class that he became interested in a career aimed at the stars.

Looser, who worked with TI to develop Fuel for the Fire, says a STEM education opens doors to “almost limitless” 21st-century career opportunities.

“You can start as an entry-level engineer, scientist, business analyst or technician,” he says, and go on to become “the senior expert in your particular area, a chief engineer for a major program, a program or project manager, chief safety officer, department manager or even a NASA executive.”

Looser worked in Marshall Space Flight Center’s cooperative education group supporting the space shuttle program while studying engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Now, as the lead propulsion engineer for the Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage, he oversees the design, development, testing, integration and operation of the largest rocket stage ever built.