I took my oldest son to Purdue University today for their annual Fall Space Day. It's a day for kids in grades 3-8 to meet a real astronaut and do activities that teach them about some of the problems and principles of spaceflight. It's a long day, but the kids enjoy it. As a parent, I enjoy watching my son work with the other kids on the various activities. All of them involve some sort of challenge to overcome, such as designing a capsule to protect an egg 'astronaut.' The capsule is then dropped from a second story window to determine its effectiveness. Suffice it to say, I would not want to be an astronaut on this day!
Today my son got to make a rocket from a drinking straw, design a structure to protect a potato chip 'astronaut' from a meteor impact, and launch styrofoam and toothpick satellite components using balloon rockets. The last activity was interesting because the kids had to 'pay' for their components and rockets, as well as each launch. The winning group was the one that got all their components into orbit for the least amount of money.
The kids also get their picture taken with the astronaut speaker, and a goody bag with the astronaut's autograph. A good day, a good father-son outing.