The Physics of Fluid Mechanics

From drinking fountains at playgrounds, water systems in homes, and working bathrooms at schools to hydraulic bridges and levee systems, fluid mechanics are an essential part of daily life. Fluid mech... ...moreFrom drinking fountains at playgrounds, water systems in homes, and working bathrooms at schools to hydraulic bridges and levee systems, fluid mechanics are an essential part of daily life. Fluid mechanics, the study of how forces are applied to fluids, is outlined in this unit as a sequence of two lessons and three corresponding activities. The first lesson provides a basic introduction to Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and Bernoulli's principle and presents fundamental definitions, equations and problems to solve with students, as well as engineering applications. The second lesson provides a basic introduction to aboveground storage tanks, their pervasive use in the Houston Ship Channel, and different types of storage tank failure in major storms and hurricanes. The unit concludes with students applying what they have learned to determine the stability of individual aboveground storage tanks given specific storm conditions so they can analyze their stability in changing storm conditions, followed by a project to design their own storage tanks to address the issues of uplift, displacement and buckling in storm conditions. ...less 
Curricular Unit 
20140701 
Subject Areas: 2 Lessons: 2 Activities: 4 Details 
Archimedes' Principle, Pascal's Law and Bernoulli's Principle

Students are introduced to Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and Bernoulli's principle. Fundamental definitions, equations, practice problems and engineering applications are supplied. A PowerPoint® presentation, practice problems and grading rubric are provided. 
Lesson 
20140701 
Subject Areas: 5 Curricular Units: 1 Activities: 3 Details 
AboveGround Storage Tanks in the Houston Ship Channel

Students are provided with an introduction to aboveground storage tanks, specifically how and why they are used in the Houston Ship Channel. The introduction includes many photographic examples of pe... ...moreStudents are provided with an introduction to aboveground storage tanks, specifically how and why they are used in the Houston Ship Channel. The introduction includes many photographic examples of petrochemical tank failures during major storms and describes the consequences in environmental pollution and costs to disrupted businesses and lives, as well as the lack of safety codes and provisions to better secure the tanks in coastal regions regularly visited by hurricanes. Students learn how the concepts of Archimedes' principle and Pascal's law act out in the form of the uplifting and buckling seen in the damaged and destroyed tanks, which sets the stage for the realworld engineering challenge presented in the associated activity—to design new and/or improved storage tanks that can survive storm conditions. ...less 
Lesson 
20140701 
Subject Areas: 3 Curricular Units: 1 Activities: 1 Details 
Cartesian Diver

Students observe Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and the ideal gas law as a Cartesian diver moves within a closed system. The Cartesian diver is neutrally buoyant and begins to sink when an extern... ...moreStudents observe Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and the ideal gas law as a Cartesian diver moves within a closed system. The Cartesian diver is neutrally buoyant and begins to sink when an external pressure is applied to the closed system. A basic explanation and proof of this process is provided in this activity, and supplementary ideas for more extensive demonstrations and independent group activities are presented. ...less 
Activity 
20140701 
Subject Areas: 0 Curricular Units: 0 Lessons: 1 Details 
Rock and Boat

Students are presented with a challenge question that they must answer with scientific and mathematical reasoning. The challenge question is: "You have a large rock on a boat that is floating in a pon... ...moreStudents are presented with a challenge question that they must answer with scientific and mathematical reasoning. The challenge question is: "You have a large rock on a boat that is floating in a pond. You throw the rock overboard and it sinks to the bottom of the pond. Does the water level in the pond rise, drop or remain the same?" Students observe Archimedes' principle in action in this model recreation of the challenge question when a toy boat is placed in a container of water and a rock is placed on the floating boat. Students use terminology learned in the classroom as well as critical thinking skills to derive equations needed to answer this question. ...less 
Activity 
20140701 
Subject Areas: 0 Curricular Units: 0 Lessons: 1 Details 
AboveGround Storage Tank Design Project

At this point in the unit, students have learned about Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle, Bernoulli's principle, and why aboveground storage tanks are of major concern in the Houston Ship Channel a... ...moreAt this point in the unit, students have learned about Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle, Bernoulli's principle, and why aboveground storage tanks are of major concern in the Houston Ship Channel and other coastal areas. In this culminating activity, student groups act as engineering design teams to derive equations to determine the stability of specific aboveground storage tank scenarios with given tank specifications and liquid contents. With their floatation analyses completed and the stability determined, students analyze the tank stability in specific storm conditions. Then, teams are challenged to come up with improved storage tank designs to make them less vulnerable to uplift, displacement and buckling in storm conditions. Teams present their analyses and design ideas in short class presentations. ...less 
Activity 
20140701 
Subject Areas: 2 Curricular Units: 0 Lessons: 1 Details 
Timing a Speedbot!

Students strengthen their communicate skills about measurements by learning the meaning of base units and derived units, including speed—one of the most common derived units (distance/time). Working... ...moreStudents strengthen their communicate skills about measurements by learning the meaning of base units and derived units, including speed—one of the most common derived units (distance/time). Working in groups, students measure the time for LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robots to move a certain distance. The robots are started and stopped via touch sensors and programmed to display the distance traveled. Using their collected data, students complete a worksheet to calculate the robots' (mean/average) speeds at given motor powers. ...less 
Activity 
20140619 
Subject Areas: 3 Curricular Units: 0 Lessons: 0 Details 
The Car with a Lot of Potential

Working in teams of three, students perform quantitative observational experiments on the motion of LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotic vehicles powered by the stored potential energy of rubber bands. The... ...moreWorking in teams of three, students perform quantitative observational experiments on the motion of LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robotic vehicles powered by the stored potential energy of rubber bands. They experiment with different vehicle modifications (such as wheel type, payload, rubber band type and lubrication) and monitor the effects on vehicle performance. The main point of the activity, however, is for students to understand that through the manipulation of mechanics, a rubber band can be used in a rather nontraditional configuration to power a vehicle. In addition, this activity reinforces the idea that elastic energy can be stored as potential energy. ...less 
Activity 
20140602 
Subject Areas: 2 Curricular Units: 0 Lessons: 0 Details 
Gears: Determining Angular Velocity

Students work as engineers and learn to conduct controlled experiments by changing one experimental variable at a time to study its effect on the experiment outcome. Specifically, they conduct experim... ...moreStudents work as engineers and learn to conduct controlled experiments by changing one experimental variable at a time to study its effect on the experiment outcome. Specifically, they conduct experiments to determine the angular velocity for a gear train with varying gear ratios and lengths. Student groups assemble LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robots with variously sized gears in a gear train and then design programs using the NXT software to cause the motor to rotate all the gears in the gear train. They use the LEGO data logging program and light sensors to set up experiments. They run the program with the motor and the light sensor at the same time and analyze the resulting plot in order to determine the angular velocity using the provided physicsbased equations. Finally, students manipulate the gear train with different gears and different lengths in order to analyze all these factors and figure out which manipulation has a higher angular velocity. They use the equations for circumference of a circle and angular velocity; and convert units between radians and degrees. ...less 
Activity 
20140602 
Subject Areas: 3 Curricular Units: 0 Lessons: 0 Details 
Urban Stormwater Management

Engineers design and implement many creative techniques for managing stormwater at its sources in order to improve and restore the hydrology and water quality of developed sites to predevelopment con... ...moreEngineers design and implement many creative techniques for managing stormwater at its sources in order to improve and restore the hydrology and water quality of developed sites to predevelopment conditions. Through the two lessons in this unit, students are introduced to green infrastructure (GI) and lowimpact development (LID) technologies, including green roofs and vegetative walls, bioretention or rain gardens, bioswales, planter boxes, permeable pavement, urban tree canopies, rainwater harvesting, downspout disconnection, green streets and alleys, and green parking. Student teams take on the role of stormwater engineers through five associated activities. They first model the water cycle, and then measure transpiration rates and compare native plant species. They investigate the differences in infiltration rates and storage capacities between several types of planting media before designing their own media mixes to meet design criteria. Then they design and test their own pervious pavement mix combinations. In the culminating activity, teams bring together all the concepts as well as many of the materials from the previous activities in order to create and install personal rain gardens. The unit prepares the students and teachers to take on the design and installation of bigger rain garden projects to manage stormwater at their school campuses, homes and communities. ...less 
Curricular Unit 
20140524 
Subject Areas: 1 Lessons: 2 Activities: 5 Details 