Hands-on Activity Energy Projects

Quick Look

Grade Level: 8 (6-8)

Time Required: 2 hours

(three 40-minute class periods)

Expendable Cost/Group: US $0.00

Group Size: 1

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Data Analysis and Probability, Physical Science, Physics, Science and Technology

NGSS Performance Expectations:

NGSS Three Dimensional Triangle

In front of a poster board, a student describes her energy project to an adult.
Communicating ideas and solutions is an important part of engineering.
Copyright © 2008 Clarkson University, Potsdam NY


Students use what they learned about energy systems to create a project related to identifying and carrying out a personal change to reduce energy consumption. Ideally, the preliminary homework assignments should be interspersed throughout the unit so that the students stay focused on their ultimate culminating projects.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Through the engineering design process, numerous potential solutions are identified and the best option is chosen. This activity walks students through these steps with the ultimate goal that they recommend (or carry out, if possible) energy solutions, and communicate the solutions to others. Communication is an important, and often under-appreciated, skill of the engineering profession.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Identify personal decisions they can make to affect the current energy situation.
  • Apply the problem solving method to real-life problems.
  • Identify the key concepts to investigate in order to complete their projects.
  • Apply the energy and math knowledge they learned in class to real-life problems.
  • Communicate their ideas and new knowledge to their class or community.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Construct an oral and written argument supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support or refute an explanation or a model for a phenomenon or a solution to a problem.

Alignment agreement:

Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise.

Alignment agreement:

Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Alignment agreement:

All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

Alignment agreement:

Scientific knowledge can describe the consequences of actions but does not necessarily prescribe the decisions that society takes.

Alignment agreement:

  • Evaluate designs based on criteria, constraints, and standards. (Grades 3 - 5) More Details

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  • Design involves a set of steps, which can be performed in different sequences and repeated as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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Materials List

Varies depending on individual projects.

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/cla-energy-projects] to print or download.


What is a personal decision you can make in your life to affect the current energy situation?

What concepts that you learned in science class can you apply in your project?

How can you apply the problem solving method in your project?

At this point, students have learned about energy forms, states, conservation and efficiency. They have learned ways to conserve energy and use alternative energy sources; have been introduced to the technological method of problem solving; and should have seen their problem statement.

In this activity , students decide on and complete a project. This enables them to show that they understand the impacts of energy production and consumption on the societal, environmental or economical perspective. This project also serves as a way for students to strengthen their communication skills by presenting their projects at the class, school or community level.

Key concepts to stress in this activity include:

  • We can make personal decisions in our homes, schools and communities that affect the existing energy situation.
  • All the energy concepts we have learned throughout the semester can be used and applied to real-life problems.
  • Solving problems is faster, easier and has better results if a problem solving procedure is used.
  • If an idea is never clearly communicated, it is useless.


Teaching Plan: Depending on the class, you may be completing this activity throughout the course of the other lessons, or at the end of the curriculum. There is no real outline of how this should be done. The students brainstorm ideas, make a decision about a specific solution, and then get to work. The time needed to complete the projects depends on what projects they select and how much class versus homework time you allocate to finishing the project. Assign the following homework assignments throughout the curriculum or in the beginning of the project development to assist students in brainstorming.

Energy Decisions: This homework is specifically outlined in the Problem Solving lesson. This guides students through the problem solving method with their problem statement.

Project Ideas: This homework asks students to write down several ideas and how they want to communicate them.

Project Handout: This homework asks students to describe their projects and list the materials they need.


Interim Assignment Deadlines: Students should complete and turn in early assignments that show their work to define a project when assigned during the unit.

Final Project: The culminating project provides an overall assessment for the unit. Expect students to use the vocabulary and concepts developed throughout this unit appropriately. Most important, use this project to assess students' critical thinking skills (evaluation, synthesis) as they apply what they learned in class to their own projects. See the Project Rubric as an example rubric for the culminating unit project. The Peer Review Rubric is another assessment that requires students to review other students' projects and report (briefly) on their findings.


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© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2008 Clarkson University


Susan Powers; Jan DeWaters; and a number of Clarkson and St. Lawrence University students in the K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program

Supporting Program

Office of Educational Partnerships, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY

Last modified: December 2, 2020

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