James Clemens engineers tutor Columbia fourth-graders about ‘Europa’

At Columbia Elementary School, engineering students from James Clemens High School demonstrated water plumes (at center) on Jupiter's moon Europa by combining soda and Mentos. (CONTRIBUTED)
At Columbia Elementary School, engineering students from James Clemens High School demonstrated water plumes (at center) on Jupiter’s moon Europa by combining soda and Mentos. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Senior engineering students from James Clemens High School demonstrated their “Europa Project” to fourth-graders at Columbia Elementary School.

James Clemens senior Cody Eberly arranged the visit with fourth-grade math and science teacher Daphne Foust.

The semester-long Europa project involves creating a payload for transport on NASA’s newest spacecraft, the SLS (space launch system). “The payload will go to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which has peaked NASA’s interest. Europa is gushing water off its surface through plumes, or geysers,” James Clemens engineering teacher Greg Ennis said.

To complete the project, James Clemens students are reaching out to younger students. They spoke to classes taught by Foust, Daphne Foster, Katie Vonderheide and Nichole Guillebeaux.

The teenagers shared a PowerPoint presentation with several moon illustrations. Then, they took the fourth-graders outside for a science experiment.

They re-created Europa’s plumes using sodas and Mentos. They lined up Diet Coke, Sam’s Cola and Sam’s Diet Cola along a brick wall. One at a time, they dropped a Mentos into the soda and measured the plumes’ height. (Sam’s Cola caused the tallest plume.)

Back inside, they held a 20-minute question-and-answer session. “Students were very excited and spent several days discussing what they learned,” Foust said.

The Columbia fourth-graders wanted to know the travel time for transporting the payload to Europa. “How will the spacecraft land without crashing?” they asked.

Several questions related to Europa’s plumes. The fourth-graders asked why and how high the water “shoots up” and what makes the water freeze. “How many stars are in the Milky Way?” the fourth-graders asked.

Columbia students also were curious about the students in high school. Their personal questions included “Why do you want to be an engineer?” and “Is high school hard at James Clemens?”

Fourth-grader Pranav Ramesh said, “I learned there’s a moon called Europa.” Page Elliott was interested in the spacecraft going to Jupiter.

“They want to explore Europa because there’s water there,” fourth-grader Bella Ross said. “On Earth, we weigh more than we weigh in space,” Cam Gordenski said.

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