Learning from home? Find hands-on activities perfect for distance learning. Browse now!

Hands-on Activity: Energy Skate Park

Quick Look

Grade Level: 11 (9-12)

Time Required: 30 minutes

Expendable Cost/Group: US $0.00

Group Size: 2

Activity Dependency:

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

Attention: This activity requires the resource(s):

A screen capture shows a drawing of a man on a skateboard positioned as if he will skate down a line that dips down and then up to his starting height.
Screen shot from the PHET Energy Skate Park simulation.


Students experiment with an online virtual laboratory set at a skate park. They make predictions of graphs before they use the simulation to create graphs of energy vs. time under different conditions. This simulation experimentation strengths their comprehension of conservation of energy solely between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

During this activity, student predict behavior before they discover the real behavior of the man in a virtual skate park. This application gives them context for learning about potential and kinetic energy. Predicting the behavior of something based on prior knowledge is an important skill for engineers. When engineers are designing, they make predictions about how structures, devices and processes will function before they build them. This activity helps students develop this very important skill.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Apply their background knowledge to begin solving the challenge.
  • Relate kinetic energy with gravitational potential energy and heat energy.

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

HS-PS3-2. Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as either motions of particles or energy stored in fields. (Grades 9 - 12)

Do you agree with this alignment?

Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Develop and use a model based on evidence to illustrate the relationships between systems or between components of a system.

Alignment agreement:

Create a computational model or simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system.

Alignment agreement:

Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

Alignment agreement:

Energy is a quantitative property of a system that depends on the motion and interactions of matter and radiation within that system. That there is a single quantity called energy is due to the fact that a system's total energy is conserved, even as, within the system, energy is continually transferred from one object to another and between its various possible forms.

Alignment agreement:

At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as in motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.

Alignment agreement:

These relationships are better understood at the microscopic scale, at which all of the different manifestations of energy can be modeled as a combination of energy associated with the motion of particles and energy associated with the configuration (relative position of the particles). In some cases the relative position energy can be thought of as stored in fields (which mediate interactions between particles). This last concept includes radiation, a phenomenon in which energy stored in fields moves across space.

Alignment agreement:

Energy cannot be created or destroyed—it only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

Alignment agreement:

  • Represent data on two quantitative variables on a scatter plot, and describe how the variables are related. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Summarize, represent, and interpret data on two categorical and quantitative variables (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; however, it can be converted from one form to another. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Energy can be grouped into major forms: thermal, radiant, electrical, mechanical, chemical, nuclear, and others. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Represent data on two quantitative variables on a scatter plot, and describe how the variables are related. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Summarize, represent, and interpret data on two categorical and quantitative variables (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each student needs:

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/van_hybrid_design_activity1] to print or download.

More Curriculum Like This

A Tale of Friction

High school students learn how engineers mathematically design roller coaster paths using the approach that a curved path can be approximated by a sequence of many short inclines. They apply basic calculus and the work-energy theorem for non-conservative forces to quantify the friction along a curve...

preview of 'A Tale of Friction ' Lesson
High School Lesson
Conservation of Energy: Pushing It Off a Cliff

This lesson focuses on the conservation of energy solely between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy, moving students into the Research and Revise step. Students start out with a virtual laboratory, and then move into the notes and working of problems as a group.

Statistical Analysis of Flexible Circuits

Students are introduced to the technology of flexible circuits, some applications and the photolithography fabrication process. They are challenged to determine if the fabrication process results in a change in the circuit dimensions since, as circuits get smaller and smaller (nano-circuits), this c...

Pre-Req Knowledge

Students must have a basic working knowledge of computer simulations.


In today's activity, we first consider our previous knowledge on the subject, which can be applied to solving the challenge. Then, we determine exactly what we need to learn in order to learn about how energy can be transferred. You will be getting a worksheet, on which you first record your own thoughts in the form of a line graph. Afterwards, we will organize into lab groups and work on the virtual lab using an online simulation.

So let's jump start our initial expectations (get the initial screen shot on the screen in front of the class, and draw an energy-time graph on the board). Draw a graph of what you expect potential energy to be doing over three cycles. In another color, draw what you expect kinetic energy to be doing over the same time period. So far this is in the absence of friction. Now lets draw another plot for what we expect to happen with friction present. Where does heat come into play?



This activity introduces students to the concept of conservation of energy and the relationship of friction to this interaction.

Before the Activity

Make copies of the Energy Skate Park Worksheet. one per student.

Test student computers to make sure they are able to run the simulation at http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/energy-skate-park.

With the Students

  1. Describe the prediction portions of the worksheet with students.
  2. Divide the class into small lab groups and have students share their thoughts with each other.
  3. Have students perform the simulation for the following situations: A) frictionless on Earth, B) with friction on Earth, C) on Jupiter with and without friction, D) in space without friction.
  4. Give students time to experiment with the simulation.
  5. Conclude with a class discussion so students can share and compare their results and conclusions. Ask the Investigating Questions.


Assess student comprehension from their group discussion contributions and completeness and accurcy of their worksheet answers.

Investigating Questions

  • How does friction affect both kinetic and potential energy? Does this contradict the law of conservation of energy?
  • How does the changing of the gravitational field affect the conservation of energy that you observe?
  • How does the changing of mass (changing of skater) affect the conservation of energy that you observe?

Activity Scaling

  • For lower grades, provide more time for group discussions.
  • For upper grades, ask students to relate a mathematical relationship between kinetic energy and gravitation kinetic energy, with and without friction.


Energy Skate Park Simulation. PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder. Accessed April 3, 2009. Source of computer simulation required to perform the lab. http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/energy-skate-park


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2006 Vanderbilt University


Joel Daniel (funded by the NSF-funded Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power at the University of Minnesota); Megan Johnston

Supporting Program

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University


The contents of this digital library curriculum were developed under National Science Foundation RET grant nos. 0338092 and 0742871. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: December 17, 2020

User Comments & Tips

Free K-12 standards-aligned STEM curriculum for educators everywhere.
Find more at TeachEngineering.org