Hands-on Activity: Energy Skate Park

Contributed by: VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University

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.

Summary

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 meets 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.

Pre-Req Knowledge

Students must have a basic working knowledge of computer simulations.

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.

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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.

  • 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) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear). Sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a function that has been described verbally. (Grade 8) Details... View more 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) Details... View more 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) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each student needs:

Introduction/Motivation

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?

Procedure

Background

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.

Attachments

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?

Assessment

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

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.

References

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

Contributors

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

Copyright

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

Supporting Program

VU Bioengineering RET Program, School of Engineering, Vanderbilt University

Acknowledgements

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: September 5, 2017

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