As far as groundbreaking science and tech achievements go, 2012 was a standout year. Everywhere you looked—from the surface of the Red Planet to the depths of an underground particle collider here on Earth—we humans were running experiments and testing ways to learn more about the universe. Before 2013 gets too far underway, revisit some of last year’s moments that brought science to life:

  • NASA Jet Propulsion Labs used a complex, multi-stage plan to put the Curiosity rover on Mars.
  • SpaceX, a private space operation, docked its Dragon capsule at the International Space Station. 
  • Tesla announced its Model S electric car, which can be powered by sustainable sources.
  • The world's largest machine detected the Higgs boson, which explains the existence of mass.
  • Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull broke the sound barrier in freefall, without a vehicle!

Our friend at Waterloo Labs made this tribute video about all the events listed above. Feel free to share with your class. In its Rube Goldberg-esque glory, the video might spark ideas about cool stuff to build and cool ways to build it.  If you show the video or discuss the events it highlights, you may find it worth mentioning that NI LabVIEW—the same software environment used to program each of the quirky contraptions in the video scenes—was involved in all five of the events covered.

One lesson students might draw from the video? Constructing a miniature energy grid can teach you to manage data in a programming environment—the same skill they could apply on the job, in a real-world energy grid.

Another takeaway might be that while technology advances rapidly, the underlying concepts remain the same. For example, researchers predicted the Higgs-Boson particle existed nearly 50 years before the technology to find it even existed. There’s nothing like a physics breakthrough to remind students that science and math skills never go out of style.

Go ahead… play it again. Then crank up Will.i.am’s Reach for the Stars, the first recorded song to be beamed to Earth from another planet.