History: The idea for this workshop came out of the MIT Space Systems Lab — a group of undergraduate and graduate students put together a workshop aimed at middle school students who wanted to learn about the sweet side of satellites. The workshop was adapted for an event sponsored by NASA Goddard and the ideas behind the workshop were presented at the International Aeronautical Congress in Beijing, China.

Premise: Students learn about the parts of a satellite as they design, build, and test their own out of candy.


Credit: thetech.org

Each part of the satellite (payload, power supply, thermal, etc) is mapped to a specific candy. For example: mechanical panels are graham crackers, “glue” is peanut butter or marshmallow fluff,  a gyro is an M&M, mini thrusters are candy corn. A bit of imagination can lend this idea to any budget or dietary needs.

In the design phase, depending on the age of the students, they have a budget or formula to maximize (points for having all or certain the satellite subsystems, trade offs between materials, payload options, etc). Engineer volunteers are on hand to talk to the students about the impacts of different choices.

Students pick up their materials and build their satellite! Once the students complete their satellite, they bring it to the test area where it undergoes a “thermal test” (microwave for 30 seconds) and/or “shock test” (drop from 10 cm).

If you’re interested in learning more, want a copy of the IAC paper, or have your own ideas, please send a message!