Hands-on Activity: River Flow Rate

Contributed by: Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Colorado School of Mines

Quick Look

Grade Level: 6 (6-8)

Time Required: 45 minutes

Expendable Cost/Group: US $0.00

Group Size: 3

Activity Dependency: None

Subject Areas: Life Science

Attention: This activity requires the following resource:

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt

A view of the north side of the Coon Rapids Dam along the Mississippi River.
The Coon Rapids Dam along the Mississippi River.
copyright
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coon_Rapids_River_Dam_-_Coon_Rapids,_Minnesota.jpg

Summary

Students build on their understanding and feel for flow rates, as gained from the associated Faucet Flow Rate activity, to estimate the flow rate of a local river. The objective is to be able to relate laboratory experiment results to the environment. They use the U.S. Geological Survey website (https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt) to determine the actual flow rate data for their river, and compare their estimates to the actual flow rate. For this activity to be successful, choose a nearby river and take a field trip or show a video so students gain a visual feel for the flow of the nearby river.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Civil engineers design the systems that bring water from natural resources, such as rivers or lakes, to the communities where that water is needed. Civil engineers also oversee natural systems, such as river basins and watersheds, for flood control and drought mitigation. Completing this activity gives students a greater understanding for what civil engineers who design water systems do, as well as the skills they use.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Use experimental data to formulate hypotheses.
  • Use the Internet to find the flow rate of a specific river.
  • Analyze discrepancies between estimated and actual data.

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

Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (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
Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions.

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:

The uses of technologies and any limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

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Materials List

  • River Flow Rate handouts, as found in the attached Flow Rate Experiment Student Guide
  • computers with Internet access

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/csm_engineering_our_water_lesson1_activity2_tg] to print or download.

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Introduction/Motivation

Understanding flow rate and determining the flow rate of rivers is important in engineering analysis and design so that our infrastructure provides sufficient amounts of water when and where it is needed. Now that you have first-hand experience with flow rates from water faucets, let's extend your flow rate knowledge to rivers and streams.

Procedure

Before beginning the activity with students, use the data on the USGS website to locate the flow rates for rivers in your geographical area.

  1. Hand out the River Flow Rate handouts.
  2. Introduce and explain the activity to students.
  3. Have students assemble into their groups, and write down their hypotheses (best estimates) about the flow rate of a local river. For greatest benefit, choose a nearby river that students are familiar with, or take a field trip.
  4. Have each student group assemble at a computer with Internet access. If computers are limited, do this portion of the activity as a class. Bring up the Daily Streamflow Conditions page at the USGS Current Water Data for the Nation website at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/rt.
  5. If students have never used the USGS website, walk through the process to find the flow rate for an example river.
  6. Have student teams complete the worksheets.
  7. As a class, compare estimates and real-world flow rate data.

Assessment

At activity end, compare estimates and real-world data. Collect and review worksheet answers to gauge students' comprehension of the subject matter.

Contributors

Bobby Rinehart; Karen Johnson; Mike Mooney

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Colorado School of Mines

Acknowledgements

This curriculum was created with support from the National Science Foundation. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: January 9, 2019

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