Ellen Ochoa

Famous Person: Ellen Ochoa

Related Topics:
Space Exploration

Grade Level:

Author:Terilyn Bell




Table of Contents:

Activity References
Time Allotment
Resources Needed
1.Carousel Brainstorming
2. Oral History
4.Venn Diagram
5.Invention Convention
6. Journals
7. Rocket Propulsion Experiment
8. Bottle Pop
9. Pencil Rocket Experiment
10. Bottle Rocket

Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman ever to be accepted into the NASA space shuttle program. As a minority, Ellen's accomplishment was unique, but even more amazing was the fact that she was chosen out of 2,000 applicants to be one of only twenty-two that were finally selected. Ellen's first shuttle mission also came sooner than most astronauts. She had been selected into the space program in 1991 and in 1993 she had her first space shuttle ride. Ellen quoted to the San Diego Union Tribune, "Usually it takes quite a bit longer; I got lucky."

Not only is Ellen an astronaut, but she is an inventor. She has three patents to her name in the area of optical processing. Ellen's accomplishments are amazing for someone so young. She has accomplished more at the age of 35, then most people do in a lifetime. Ellen's accomplishments have benefitted our nation's space program, but I believe her greatest assets to be the silent contribution she has given to so many. One of Ellen's greatest accomplishments has been getting to where she is today. She worked hard to become what she is and the example that she has provided to so many is one of hard work. Ellen's example has given hope and encouragement to many, she has shown people how to believe in themselves and to reach for what they want. Ellen says that "Only you put limitations on yourself about what you can achieve so don't be afraid to reach for the stars." (Flowers). Ellen herself has proven that success lies within. Ellen's belief in herself is one of her greatest strengths, she chose not to fear possible success but to attain the success she saw herself capable of achieving.

Ellen's example stretches out to young people in schools all over the nation. In her spare time she makes every effort to reach out with encouragement and to share her story. She says, "I do as much speaking as I am allowed to do. I tell students that the opportunities I had were the result of having a very good educational background. Educations is what allows you to stand out." (Martin). She encourages students, especially girls, to study math and science. She states that her hard work is what got her where she is today and encourages others to work hard at whatever they do. She says that, "Getting to be an astronaut is tough for anybody, not just Hispanics or women. I don't think my background made it harder or easier. I think it's just a matter of working hard to have a very good education." (Martin). Ellen was offered a four year scholarship to Stanford right after high school, but she turned it down to help out her family. Ellen's mother was a single parent for the majority of Ellen's life. Ellen stayed behind for two years to help her mother with her brothers. Ellen never gave up her dreams though. After two years at home, Ellen attended San Diego University where she received her bachelor's degree in physics. She then went on to Stanford to receive her master's and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering. Ellen maintained a perfect GPA and graduated as valedictorian of her class.

Ellen herself had wonderful role models she learned from and looked up to. Sally Ride, another female astronaut, was one of her role models. Ellen says that, "Sally made it possible for anyone to become an astronaut." (John). Ellen's greatest influence though was her mother, Rosanne Ochoa. Ellen's mother provided the example that education is important and always stressed this to her daughter. Ellen says that "My mom's been a big influence on me in that she had to raise five kids a lot of the time on her own. She stressed that education is important and that it opens up a lot of options." (Martin).

As an astronaut, Ellen's opportunity of space flight has provided her many opportunities to see things most people will only see through pictures. Ellen found beauty out there. She says "The most exciting thing was looking out at Earth from up there. It was beautiful." (Martin). Ellen may have found beauty in the universe that we will only see from a photograph, but Ellen herself exhibits a beauty far greater than any picture. The beauty of her example will reach and touch many lives and that is a beauty we can all see.

John, Betty. (1996). Hispanic Scientists. Mankato: Capstone Press.

Sinnott, Susan. (1991). Extraordinary Hispanic Americans. Chicago: Children's

NASA, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. (1996). Biographical Data. [On-line]. Available:
http: //www.jsc.nasa.gov:80/Bios/htmbiosl/ochoa.html

Flowers, Sandra H and Abbott, Michael H. (No date listed). Ellen Ochoa. [On-line]. Available:

Martin, Lydia. (1993). Astronaut is thrilled by beauty of universe. [On-line]. Available:

Allen, Angela. (1995). Focus On Hispanic Americans. Huntington Beach, Calilfornia: Teacher Created Materials.

Activity References:

Goldfluss, Karen J. And Sima, Patricia Miriani. (1993). Inventions. Huntington Beach, California: Teacher Created Materials.

Nelson, Kathryn. (No date given). Space: Social Studies Unit. Science p. 27. ERTC. Utah State University.

Vogt, Gregory L. Formated by: Smith, Nathan Blaire and Nathan M. Jr. (1997). Bottle Rocket. [On-line]. Available:

Vogt, Gregory L. Formated by: Smith, Nathan Blaire and Nathan M. Jr. (1997). Pencil Rocket. [On-line]. Available:

NASA. (No date given.). Classroom Activities And Information Sheets. Oberlin, Ohio. NASA CORE. ERTC. Utah State University.


1.Students will identify with Ellen Ochoa through activities similar to things she does, things she has accomplished, andthings she encourages others to do (inventions, journal, experiments).

2. Students will identify what makes a person a role model and will choose someone for their own personal role model.

3. Students will understand the invention process and will demonstrate this through an invention they themselves have created.

4. Students will develop an increased knowledge in the area of rocket science through experiments and activities.

5. Students will use and develop problem solving skills.

6. Students will identify and see common traits in positive role models.

Time Allotment: Approximately two weeks.

Resources Needed:
2 liter Pop Bottles with plastic caps
Safety goggles
Paper Cups
Glass Medicine Bottle
Magnifying Glass
Many unusual items (shoelaces, construction paper, boxes, cups, milk jugs, string, straws, modeling clay, tape, toothpicks, jar lid, clothes pin, old dishes, paper towel tubes, tin cans, clothes hangers, etc.)
Patent Application
Patent Certification
iron bailing wire
rubber bands
unsharpened wood pencils
pencil cap erasers
cellophane or heavy masking tape
heavy paper
white butcher paper
several different colored markers
Pre-built launch pads for pencil rockets
Pre-built launch pads for pop bottle rockets


1. Carousel Brainstorming. Students will be assigned into small cooperative groups. The teacher will tape four large pieces of butcher paper in five areas of the room. Five questions will be assigned to each paper:

a.What makes someone a role model?
b.What are some examples of well known role models?
c.What are some examples of personal role models?
d.List your groups role models, both personal and famous.
e.List how these role models have affected your life.

Each group will be assigned to go to one of the question areas. Each group will list their ideas to answer the question or statement. Each group will be assigned a specific colored marker to write with. This will help the teacher assess who has contributed what and make sure that all groups have participated. Teacher will rotate groups after each group has listed an appropriate amount of ideas on the paper. No time limit will be set, the teacher will set that according to how much each group has contributed.

Oral History. Following the Carousel activity students will choose a personal role model whom they can interview. Each student will turn in their choice to the teacher. Students will need a tape and tape recorder to interview their person. Students will ask the person they have chosen questions pertaining to the things that they admire in that person or things that the person has done to influence the student's life. Students will be required to make a poster summarizing this person's life and their strengths. If able to, students should attach a picture to their poster. If students can't find a picture, they can draw one of this person. The teacher will have a sample poster made up of Ellen Ochoa as a role model. Teacher will place all posters that students make around the walls of the room. (See Appendix for sample interview form.)

Mini-Lecture. Teacher and students will discuss the results of the carousel activity. Teacher will give background information on Ellen Ochoa. Teacher will guide class in a discussion to determine if Ellen meets the criteria for a positive role model. Teacher will take a class poll on how many think Ellen meets the criteria. The teacher tells the students that the class will spotlight Ellen as a role model for the next couple of weeks. Ellen's poster will be placed on a special bulletin board featuring her for two weeks. Teacher will pick three posters to spotlight for role models for the week. These posters will be placed in a special bulletin board featuring her for two weeks. The teacher will also pick three posters of the students to spotlight as role models for the week. These posters will be placed on a special bulletin board. The teacher will choose three role models each week to put on the bulletin board as a spotlight on role models. Each student's poster will have the opportunity to be spotlighted. During the spotlight each student will explain and share their poster with the class.

Venn Diagram.Teacher will draw a diagram up on large sheet of white butcher paper. One circle will represent Ellen Ochoa and the other circle will represent the students' personal role models. Children will brainstorm characteristics of Ellen Ochoa based on background information presented. Students will then list the characteristics of their chosen role models. Characteristics that are similar between Ellen and the group's role models will be placed where the circles overlap. Teacher will list all characteristics in appropriate circles. Students will see common traits in positive role models.

Invention Convention. Teacher will discuss the process of inventing. Teacher will divide students into groups. Each group will be given a box of odds and ends, these are their supplies. Each group will be required to invent something with the supplies in their assigned box. They must use only what is in the box. To go along with their invention, each group must have an explanation of what their invention does, the invention's name, and the process they used to come up with the idea. Each group must meet the criteria given above and must show this in written form. Each group will be given a patent application to fill out as they complete their project. They will submit the application to the teacher. If invention meets the criteria given, the teacher will give each group an official certificate of their accepted patent. Inventions will be put on display with patent applications and certificates. Students will also be required to keep a journal showing their ideas. They need to include a "blueprint" of their invention in their journal. Ellen Ochoa has three patents on inventions in the area of optical processing. Students will learn the inventing process and apply it to the activity stated above. As inventors, they will be able to identify with Ochoa and the things she does as a scientist.

Journals. Each person will be required to keep a journal for all science experiments.
Students will be required to record all predictions made for each experiment and for all results from each experiment. Students will also be required to make journal entries describing the successes and failures of their inventions. They may record ideas that helped to form the product and they may draw sketches of their design. As a scientist and inventor, Ochoa must record thought processes and document results on her experiments. To get a feel for what Ochoa does in her profession, students will keep journals for all their experiments and for their invention convention.

Rocket Propulsion Experiment. Students will be assigned into groups. Each group will be given a paper cup filled with water and a candle. Students will conduct the experiment and write down their observations of the results of the experiment. Before the experiment, students will predict as a group if the cup will burn when heated by the candle. After the experiment, students will predict why the cup didn't burn when the water was still in the cup. Students will record all predictions made and make comparisons between the before and after of the experiment.See explanation for the answer. (See Appendix.) This activity shows how a rocket is able to take off without burning up. As an astronaut, Ochoa has had the opportunity to ride in a space shuttle. To better understand the space shuttle process students will perform activities 7-10. Ochoa has also encouraged students to study more math and science. As a result of this challange, students will be provided with opportunities in these activities to fullfill this.

Bottle Pop. Students will be assigned into groups. Each group will be given two matches, a glass medicine bottle, a stopper, and a magnifying glass.
Before the experiment, students will predict what will happen to the bottle and the stopper. Each student will need a copy of the instructions for the experiment (See
Appendix). Students will record their predictions and compare them to the results after performing the experiment. The burning matches represent burning gases on a rocket engine. The magnifying glass represents the effect of the sparkplug through the ignition.

Pencil "Rocket" Experiment. Due to time, a teacher may want to consider building the launch pads before hand. Teacher will assign students into groups. Each group will be given a launchpad and materials needed to create their pencil rocket. Teacher will cut the notches for the students with the knife. Students will take their rockets and launch pads outside. Students will make predictions about how high their rockets will go and the direction they will go. Teacher will lead discussion about the effect the fins have on the rocket's flight. (See Appendix.)

Bottle Rocket. Due to time, teacher may want to build rocket launcher before hand. Teacher will take class outside to launch rocket. Teacher will fill a two liter pop bottle halfway with water. The teacher will place the rocket bottle on the riser and begin pumping the tire pump until the rocket takes off. Class will time how long it takes for the rocket to take off. Teacher will assign students into groups. Each group will be required to design a better rocket with a pop bottle or alternative sources they can come up with. The first day will be drafting the rocket plan. The second day will be the actual building and designing of the rocket. The third day, students will go outside for lift off. Each group will orally present their rocket design to the rest of the class. They will explain their reasoning for their additions and/or changes. Each group will then launch their rocket and evaluate if their design helped or hindered their rocket. (See Appendix.)

1.Teacher will assess carousel brainstorming activity by participation and contribution of each group. This will be done by assessing the contributions written on paper with each group's assigned color pen. Teacher will also assess to see if students lists show what makes a positive role model.

2.Posters will be assessed by seeing if given criterion was met. (Summary of person's life and strengths.)

3.Inventions will be assessed by seeing if given criterion was met.(Written format of inventions name, explanation of what invention does, process of how the invention came to be, and blueprint of invention recorded in journals.)

4. Journals will be assessed to see if predictions and results of experiments were recorded.

5. Group ability to work together and solve problems will be assessed by teacher observation.

6. Bottle Rocket project will be assessed by students oral presentation on their rocket design.

7. Venn Diagram will be assessed by students oral contribution to the list. Teacher will assess the joined section of the diagram to see if students identified common attributes between role models.

8. Participation in all activities will be assessed. By participating in all activities, students will have been given experiences similar to that of Ochoa's in order to help them better identify with her.