NASA’s HIAD (Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator) technology is currently being developed to enable people and/or a payload to land safely on other planets. It is a complex array of inflatable cones that inflate in order to slow down atmospheric entry to reduce friction induced heat. You can imagine the daunting task of accounting for the hundreds of parameters that must be taken into account to design and optimize such a device by the scientists and engineers at NASA to make it a viable device.
Now, anyone including your STEM students can do virtual science and engineering with the HIAD game created to simulate the interaction of some of these parameters and engineer a working HIAD device. Students will have to account for friction and heat, aerodynamics, material properties, and other variables. The app (available for iOS and Android) consists of 4 increasingly difficult levels and is a challenge to master. Pedagogical research continues to corroborate the notion that games can indeed be used an effective educational tool that engages students while allowing them to proceed at an individual pace, and now even NASA is in the game. We hope to see more of this in the future as STEM teachers continue to use technology as a way to deliver lesson content and and improve student achievement.