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Extreme Biosuits

This module’s essential challenge focuses on biosuit construction. Biosuits, such as spacesuits and hazmat suits, protect scientists and engineers when they work in extreme environments.

Throughout the module, students design a biosuit that must address biological necessities and assure that its user can survive multiple environments while completing key tasks. As students design and build a model biosuit, they develop an understanding of human response to stimuli and the transfer of thermal energy. Students use the science ideas developed in the module to inform and justify their design decisions. Students build heavily on their understanding of engineering and the engineering design process through their work developing, testing, optimizing, and presenting their design solutions.

NGSS addressed by this module:
MS-ETS1-1   MS-ETS1-4   MS-PS3-3   MS-LS1-3   MS-LS1-8

Grade Band: 6-8

Watch the Video

Engineering Design in the Classroom: Extreme Biosuits

Download the Lessons

Entire Unit: Extreme Biosuits
Extreme Biosuits Teacher Handbook: Days 1–10 Download

DAY 1: What is a Biosuit?
Students are introduced to the design problem to develop biosuits capable of protecting scientists and engineers in extreme environments, while allowing them to do their work comfortably. Download

DAY 2: Where the Scientist or Engineer Works
Students research their assigned environment and career, and create models to show the impact their environment may have on a human body. Download

DAY 3: What If a Scientist or Engineer Does Not Wear a Biosuit?
Students investigate what might happen to their scientist or engineer if he or she does not wear a biosuit in their environment. To do so, students conduct an experiment in which they monitor heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, skin response, and eye response to cold water. Download

DAYS 4 & 5: Materials We Can Use to Develop a Biosuit
Students link the ideas of human response to stimuli to thermal energy transfer. Students then select biosuit materials that minimize the transfer of thermal energy. Students make material tradeoffs based on budgetary constraints and design criteria. Download

DAYS 6, 7 & 8: How to Build Our Biosuit Models
Students participate in a critical friends tuning protocol to give and receive feedback on their biosuit designs and budget. Students reflect on the peer feedback and then redesign their model to optimize its performance. On Days 7 and 8, students construct their biosuit models and prepare a presentation to show how each feature of their biosuit meets all of the criteria for their task assignment and environmental conditions. Download

DAYS 9 & 10: Biosuit Testing, Presentation, and Reflection
Students present their research, test their biosuit model, and suggest design optimizations based on performance test results. Download

Download Additional Resources

Extreme Biosuits Student Handbook


The materials created by this collaboration were taught by the authoring teachers in Puget Sound and Houston and in 2015, a second group of teachers taught the lessons and provided feedback to improve the modules. As part of a second iteration of the modules, the senior science editor at Teaching Channel worked with Achieve to integrate the teachers’ feedback while more closely aligning the modules to The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for significant shifts in the way science is taught and learned. In 2016, a panel of science experts from around the country convened for a two day training with Achieve to learn how to incorporate the Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuiP) Rubric for Science. As part of the iterative process of improvement, the expert reviewers then completed an EQuIP Rubric for each module. Teaching Channel's senior science editor combined the reviewers input to create a third iteration of the modules that promotes a close alignment to standards while honoring the original expertise of the authoring teachers and engineers.

Centennial Education Partner Resources

I was interested in working on the Boeing project because [it was] another opportunity for our kids to be introduced to an engineering project. The engineers were really instrumental in planning the performance task that our students would have to do at the end of this project. They had a lot of really great ideas on which environments an engineer would actually work in, as well as how to connect those environments to real world careers."

Mallory Barnhart
7th Grade Science Teacher Houston, TX

Partners at the Institute for Science and Math Education at the University of Washington and Educate Texas were instrumental in teacher recruitment and the necessary training for this initiative.