Houston, We Have a Problem

September 20, 2022 | Melissa McCallihan

“Houston, we have a problem.” Probably the most famous line from the film Apollo 13. Engineers saved the day for the three astronauts trying to breathe in space while the NASA folks tried to figure out how to bring them back to earth safely and in one piece.

The students in sixth through eighth grade science watched a clip of the NASA engineers problem solving using only what was available on the capsule and LEM and then were confronted with their own engineering design challenge–can you create a safe path for a ping pong ball to travel over two ramps, a tube and a straight away into a cup. The constraint was they could only use 12 items to do so.


We start and end the science year practicing the Engineering Design Process. The engineering design process is a process that includes researching, brainstorming, planning, revising and finalizing a design that solves a problem and that meets the constraints and requirements of the project.

Most groups saw great success with their builds and were able to say they solved the problem. 

Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 30 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.” Mrs. McCallihan currently teaches sixth through eighth grade science.

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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