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Teamwork in Aerospace


These pages describe an educational activity which has been presented by Tom Benson of the NASA Glenn Research Center at several schools and workshops. There are two main objectives to the activity; one is to expose the students to the operation of the aerospace industry, and the other is a team dynamics exercise.

This section follows the fly-off competition as the teacher and students discuss the results of the previous exercise. This is the key part of the entire activity. The teacher guides the discussion and encourages the students to talk as much as they want and pursue lines of discussion wherever they lead. Several slides with questions have been developed to aid the discussions but the key element here is to get the students to talk about the design process and how well the teams worked together.

Here's the big overview:

Discussion questions

Let's look at these questions in some more detail:


This just gets things started. Did they work together? Did they run off separately? Did they have their own fly-off? How did they arrive at the final design? Let each company talk in turn. Did certain processes work better than others? Usually some team takes ideas from multiple members and puts it together in one plane. That's a good one to pursue. Sometimes, a member of the team has never built a paper plane (hard to believe!). What did that person do then during the design process? Discuss the team's experiences with good and bad team players.


This question starts to get into the relationship between team members and the manager or leader. If the leader has been selected randomly, it's fun to ask how the leader felt. Was she respected? Or ignored? How do the students respond to having someone else in charge? Re-enforce that in any career a person will have lots of managers .. some good, some bad .. but one has to establish a relationship with the manager to get the job done. Talk about management styles that the teacher has encountered.


This is normally a big discussion. Dominate people will insist that everyone participated but when the question is addressed to some of the quiet people, one often finds that they tried to participate but were ignored. For example, a clique of boys will ignore any female in the group. This provides an excellent opportunity to introduce the problems that occur in organizations that neglect diverse views (particularly when the offending company does not win the competition). Relate the teacher's own multi-cultural experiences.


This is also a good subject for discussion because you introduce the whole concept of time management and the problems that students will face in high school or college. Professionals are always working to some time constraint and successful people learn to manage their time. Again, relate the teacher's own experiences.


This is a fun question about industrial security and espionage. Some team will spy on another team. The teacher can also introduce the problem within organizations when a valued employee leaves one company and moves to another company.

Feel free to develop other questions. Wrap up by letting the students know that the problems they encountered during the exercise are exactly the same ones that professionals face every day.


CLICK HERE to download your own power point presentation of the entire activity.


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Editor: Nancy Hall
NASA Official: Nancy Hall
Last Updated: May 13 2021

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