NASA Physics and Engineering


Inspiring STEM Educators: The NASA Physics and Engineering Collection is designed to bring real-world applications of physics and engineering concepts into high school classrooms. The videos and interactive presentations that make up the collection are drawn from NASA's vast collection of media resources.

Take a deep-dive into the 70 classroom and professional development resources in the collection and get some tips on teaching with digital media with this free webinar recording.

  • NASA | Infrared Energy

    This video, adapted from NASA, explores what infrared energy is and how NASA detects it to study our Earth's systems more completely. The video also includes a look at the experiment Sir William Herschel conducted that led to the discovery of infrared.

    Grades: 6-12
  • NASA | Viewing Radio Waves

    In this interactive activity adapted from NASA, learn about radio waves and how astronomers use them to study objects in space. Understand how radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum and explore how the frequency, wavelength, and speed of a wave are related to each other. Investigate the differences between radio waves and sound waves and learn how astronomers use radio waves to create images. Compare optical and radio images of galaxies and nebulas.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Design an Ion Engine

    In this interactive activity adapted from NASA, learn about ion engines. Review how subatomic particles have electric charge and how atoms become ions. Learn about the components of an ion engine (including fuel, cathode emitters, a screen grid, and an accelerator grid) and explore how it produces thrust for a spacecraft. Using a simulation of an ion engine, manipulate the distance between grids and the difference in charge between grids to see how they affect the total impulse. An image gallery provides information about the Dawn spacecraft, which uses an ion engine.

    Grades: 9-12
  • NASA | Cosmic Origin Spectrograph

    The Cosmic Origin Spectrograph (COS), installed on the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009, allows scientists to use spectrographic analysis to assess the composition of intergalactic material. By collecting and analyzing light passing through intergalactic space, COS reveals which elements are present and their relative abundance. Scientists use this information to enhance our understanding of large-scale cosmic structure and also to glean insights about the universe’s past.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Meet ATHLETE, a Moon Rover

    This video segment from NASA features ATHLETE, a six-limbed vehicle being developed at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that NASA hopes to use on the Moon to carry cargo in the next decade or so. With wheels at the end of each limb, ATHLETE can roll on solid terrain. The rover can also walk on soft or otherwise extreme terrain with its wheels in a locked position. Each limb can also hold and power a tool controlled by a remote human operator.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Teaching from Space: The Bernoulli Principle

    In this video from NASA, astronauts demonstrate the Bernoulli Principle on board the International Space Station. Using everyday objects like tissue boxes and a piece of paper, the astronauts show that when a liquid or gas flows more quickly, its pressure decreases. Also shown are some everyday on-Earth examples of the Bernouilli's Principle in action.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum: Visible Light

    See just how narrow the visible light band is relative to other EM energy – and why, despite that, it’s crucially important to humans. Explore the relationship between color and temperature, the appearance of the atmosphere (and why the sky is blue!), and how scientists use light scattering to figure out what things are made of - both on and off Earth - in this video from NASA.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Blacker Than Black

    In this video adapted from NASA, two members of a NASA research team working to produce carbon nanotubes share some background behind this new technology, show examples of how it will be useful, and explain the various tests being performed to ensure readiness for spaceflight. The video explains why carbon nanotubes would enhance the performance of optical equipment like space-based telescopes: because they absorb light 10 times more readily than the blackest black paint NASA currently uses.

    Grades: 9-12
  • NASA | Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment

    This video provides a synopsis of NASA’s latest Sun-sensing initiative, EVE -- Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment. The EVE project tracks changes in the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet energy output. Extreme ultraviolet, as the name implies, is light that’s within the ultraviolet band but at the higher-energy range. By tracking data over many years, scientists will be able to better understand the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle and will collect important data by which to assess whether the Sun’s energy output is slowly decreasing, as some theories would suggest.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Rotations in Space

    This interactive activity adapted from NASA demonstrates how different objects rotate in space and addresses related questions such as what causes rotation and why objects in space rotate. In three short videos, astronaut Jeffrey Williams, onboard the International Space Station, spins different objects (a tin can, a hammer, and a can opener), observes their behavior, and explains each one's response to rotational force. Activity screens provide illustrations to define key concepts, such as microgravity, center of gravity, translation, and torque, and to examine rotation in the context of the Moon and spacecraft.
    Grades: 9-12
  • NASA | Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum: Microwaves

    See microwaves in the context of other areas of the electromagnetic spectrum, and learn about the different bands within the microwave domain. Examples highlighted include Doppler radar for weather, tracking of Arctic sea ice, surface soil tracking, and other Earth sensing systems. This NASA video also describes the discovery of microwave background radiation and its connection to the Big Bang.

    Grades: 6-12
  • NASA | The Chandra X-Ray Observatory

    This interactive activity adapted from NASA explores the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, including its telescope system, science instruments, and spacecraft system. By clicking on each component, you will learn why the high-resolution mirror assembly is barrel-shaped, how little electrical power it needs to function, what is responsible for creating images from invisible light rays, and how the satellite communicates with the Chandra Operations Control Center in Massachusetts from its high-Earth orbit.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum: Radio Waves

    In this overview of the radio band of electromagnetic spectrum from NASA, get a brief history of the discovery and early applications of radio waves, learn about ground-based radio telescope arrays, and explore some of the astronomical discoveries made possible by our ability to “listen to” and “look at” space at radio frequencies.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Teaching from Space: Surface Tension

    In this video from NASA, join an astronaut aboard the International Space Station as he demonstrates two properties of surface tension using water droplets.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Einstein's Cosmic Speed Limit

    This video focuses on one particularly interesting result from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope sky survey. In May of 2009, the highly sensitive telescope received two photons 900 milliseconds apart after a journey of 7 billion years -- meaning the photons traveled 7 billion light years and arrived at virtually the same moment. That result, described and animated in the video, offers support for one of Einstein’s predictions - that space-time is smooth -- thus discounting several competing theories that posit a “foamy” space-time structure that would have caused the two photons to arrive with a greater time separation.

    Grades: 9-12
  • NASA | Inflatable Moon Habitat

    Learn about an inflatable structure that NASA is considering for use as a habitat for astronauts who might one day travel to the Moon or Mars for extended missions. These structures are made using sturdy fabrics, rubber-like coatings, and other materials that would enable the habitats to replicate Earth’s atmosphere and protect inhabitants from harsh temperatures, radiation, and small rocks flying through space at very high speeds.

    Grades: 6-12
  • NASA | Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum: Ultraviolet

    Explore the ultraviolet band of the electromagnetic spectrum, including the ways insects and other animals can sense ultraviolet waves, how the different bands within the ultraviolet domain interact differently with the atmosphere, and how ultraviolet sensing has expanded our view of the universe.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Teaching from Space: Centripetal Force

    Watch a NASA astronaut on board the International Space Station demonstrate centripetal force by swirling a tethered tool around a cord, rotating a bag of tea to demonstrate that the air bubbles are pushed toward the center, and spinning a water droplet to show its deformation based on centripetal force. In this video from NASA's Teaching from Space program, learn more about the force that keeps the planets in orbit around the Sun, keeps the moon in orbit around the Earth, and keeps roller coasters secure as they loop and curl.
    Grades: 5-13+
  • NASA | Carrie Anderson: Taking on Titan

    Ever since she was a little girl, Carrie Anderson wanted to be an astronomer. Now she studies Saturn’s moon, Titan, using data transmitted to Earth from the Cassini space probe. Her research includes mapping Titan from the infrared zone of the electromagnetic spectrum and exploring the similarities between Titan’s current conditions and Earth’s early conditions.

    Grades: 9-12
  • NASA | Counting Neutrons on the Moon

    Learn about an instrument onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft that looks for water on the Moon. Hear how the Lunar Explorer Neutron Detector (LEND) measures the quantity of slow and fast neutrons to collect information about the presence of hydrogen and the possibility of water on the Moon. Animations show how cosmic rays knock neutrons free from atoms in the Moon's soil and how the hydrogen content of the soil affects the speed of these neutrons.

    This video is available in both English and Spanish audio with closed captions.

    Grades: 9-12

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