Grade Level: 11 (9-12)
Choose From: 4 lessons and 4 activities
Subject Areas: Science and Technology
SummaryThrough four lessons and four hands-on associated activities, this unit provides a way to teach the overarching concept of energy as it relates to both kinetic and potential energy. Within these topics, students are exposed to gravitational potential, spring potential, the Carnot engine, temperature scales and simple magnets. During the module, students apply these scientific concepts to solve the following engineering challenge: "The rising price of gasoline has many effects on the US economy and the environment. You have been contracted by an engineering firm to help design a physical energy storage system for a new hybrid vehicle for Nissan. How would you go about solving this problem? What information would you consider to be important to know? You will create a small prototype of your design idea and make a sales pitch to Nissan at the end of the unit." This module is built around the Legacy Cycle, a format that incorporates findings from educational research on how people best learn. This module is written for a first-year algebra-based physics class, though it could easily be modified for conceptual physics.
Alternative energy sources, particularly within the realm of transportation, are a hot topic in the scientific and engineering communities. Achieving a design for a safe and efficient method of capturing the energy given off by a vehicle and transferring it into kinetic energy is of utmost importance. Throughout this unit, students apply the classroom-presented scientific concepts of energy conservation to the real-world problem of designing and implementing a system for energy transformation in vehicles.
The design uses a contextually based "Challenge" followed by a sequence of instruction in which students first offer initial predictions ("Generate Ideas") and then gather information from multiple sources ("Multiple Perspectives"). This is followed by "Research and Revise" as students integrate and extend their knowledge through a variety of learning activities. The cycle concludes with formative ("Test Your Mettle") and summative ("Go Public") assessments that lead the student towards answering the Challenge question. See the unit overview section for the progression of the legacy cycle through the unit. Research and ideas behind this way of learning may be found in How People Learn, (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, National Academy Press, 2000). View the entire text at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/9853/how-people-learn-brain-mind-experience-and-school-expanded-edition.
The legacy cycle is similar to the engineering design process in that they both involve identifying a societal need, combining science and math to develop solutions, and using the research conclusions to design a clear conceived solution to the original challenge. Though both the engineering design process and legacy cycle depend on a correct and accurate solution, each focuses particularly on how the solution is devised and presented. See an overview of the engineering design process at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineering_design_process.
In Lesson 1, students are presented with a Challenge Question: "The rising price of gasoline has many effects on the US economy and the environment. You have been contracted by an engineering firm to help design a physical energy storage system for a new hybrid vehicle for Nissan. How would you go about solving this problem? What information would you consider to be important to know? You make a small prototype of your idea and make a sales pitch to Nissan at the end of the unit."
Students begin by Generating Ideas in a journal, answering questions such as, "How does the internal combustion engine currently work?" and "How do current hybrids work?" and "What other forms of energy are available?"
Lesson 2 moves into the Research and Revise phase to focus on the conservation of energy solely between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy. Students start out with a virtual laboratory, and then move into the notes and working of problems as a group. A few questions are given as homework. A dry lab that focuses on the kinetic and potential energies on a roller coaster concludes the lesson in the Test Your Mettle phase of the legacy cycle.
In Lesson 3, as part of the Research and Revise step students investigate potential energy held within springs. Class begins with a video of either spring shoes or bungee jumping. Students then move on into notes and problems as a group. A few questions are given as homework. The Test Your Mettle section concludes the lesson and includes a dry lab that involves pogo sticks that to solidify the concepts of spring potential energy, kinetic energy, and gravitational energy, as well as conservation of energy.
In Lesson 4, students conclude the Research and Revise step of the legacy cycle, as they investigate different forms of hybrid engines as well as take a brief look at the different forms of potential energy.
In Activity 4 (Energy Storage Derby and Proposal), students finish the legacy cycle with the Go Public phase. A design problem is given to the students to design and construct a small-scale vehicle to participate in a derby. To be considered for a complete project, vehicles must complete a 10-meter run in the hallway. Submissions are ranked on performance in three areas: 1) vehicle weight, 2) unloaded time, and 3) time with a 250 g load. Students then make sales pitches for their ideas and prototypes to be considered in Nissan's next design.
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.
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.
See individual lessons and activities for standards alignment.
- Day 1: Engineering Brainstorming lesson
- Day 2-5: Conservation of Energy: Pushing It Off a Cliff lesson
- Day 6: Energy Skate Park activity
- Day 7: Energy on a Roller Coaster activity
- Day 8: Elastic Potential Energy of Springs—It’s Tiggerific! lesson
- Day 9: Energy and the Pogo Stick activity
- Day 10: How a Hybrid Works lesson
- Day 11-13: Energy Storage Derby and Proposal activity
Activity 4 (Energy Storage Derby and Proposal) includes the final Go Public phase of the legacy cycle in which students are prompted to apply the concepts they have learned to answer the Challenge Question by designing, constructing prototypes and persuasively communicating their ideas. Students relate the conservation of energy to mechanical engineering by studying the various methods of potential energy storage. They are also tested and quizzed on their understanding of the conservation of energy, which serves as a cumulative assessment covering all four lessons and associated activities.
Copyright© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2006 Vanderbilt University
ContributorsJoel Daniel (funded by the NSF-funded Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power at the University of Minnesota); Megan Johnston
Supporting ProgramVU 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: February 12, 2020