Lesson: Human Power

Quick Look

Grade Level: 8 (6-8)

Time Required: 45 minutes

Lesson Dependency:

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

Two photos: (left) Three people pedal a human-powered land rover – a "moonbuggy." (right) In one hand, a girl holds a barbell at her shoulder level.
How much of your own "person power" does it take to equal a horse?
copyright
Copyright © (left) NASA http://mix.msfc.nasa.gov/abstracts.php?p=2631 (right) US National Library of Medicine http://dietarysupplements.nlm.nih.gov/dietary/women.jsp

Summary

Students do work by lifting a known mass over a period of time. The mass and measured distance and time is used to calculate force, work, energy and power in metric units. The students' power is then compared to horse power and the power required to light 60-watt light bulbs.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

The basic concepts of work, force, energy and power are fundamental physics concepts utilized in many engineering calculations and design. Every engineered device that moves, lifts or pushes requires energy. Engineers must know how to calculate the power and energy needed to do the necessary work or provide the required heat. Most of the world uses metric units to quantify engineering terms. But the US is still one of the few countries that performs some of its engineering work in the old British system units. Metric units are all based on fundamental physics quantities, which makes the metric joule, newton and watt much easier to use and calculate than the British BTU (British thermal unit), horse power, pound force and slug.

Learning Objectives

After the activity, students should be able to:

  • Define and contrast energy, work and power.
  • Given mass, distance, and time, calculate work, force and power using appropriate units.
  • Given the conversion equations, convert between horsepower and kilowatts.
  • Use measurement tools to apply the concepts of work, power and energy to a real life example.

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-PS3-2. Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system. (Grades 6 - 8)

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Click to view other curriculum aligned to this Performance Expectation
This lesson focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms.

Alignment agreement:

A system of objects may also contain stored (potential) energy, depending on their relative positions.

Alignment agreement:

When two objects interact, each one exerts a force on the other that can cause energy to be transferred to or from the object.

Alignment agreement:

Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy and matter flows within systems.

Alignment agreement:

  • Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm. (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Solve real-world and mathematical problems by writing and solving equations of the form x + p = q and px = q for cases in which p, q and x are all nonnegative rational numbers. (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division and of fractions to multiply and divide rational numbers. (Grade 7) More Details

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  • Energy is the capacity to do work. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Power is the rate at which energy is converted from one form to another or transferred from one place to another, or the rate at which work is done. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts (Grades Pre-K - 12) More Details

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  • recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics (Grades Pre-K - 12) More Details

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  • use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena (Grades Pre-K - 12) More Details

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  • understand and use ratios and proportions to represent quantitative relationships (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • understand the meaning and effects of arithmetic operations with fractions, decimals, and integers (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • use the associative and commutative properties of addition and multiplication and the distributive property of multiplication over addition to simplify computations with integers, fractions, and decimals (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • relate and compare different forms of representation for a relationship (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • develop an initial conceptual understanding of different uses of variables (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • use symbolic algebra to represent situations and to solve problems, especially those that involve linear relationships (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • model and solve contextual problems using various representations, such as graphs, tables, and equations (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • understand relationships among units and convert from one unit to another within the same system (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • select and apply techniques and tools to accurately find length, area, volume, and angle measures to appropriate levels of precision (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • solve simple problems involving rates and derived measurements for such attributes as velocity and density (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • use observations about differences between two or more samples to make conjectures about the populations from which the samples were taken (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data. The use of tools and techniques, including mathematics, will be guided by the question asked and the investigations students design. The use of computers for the collection, summary, and display of evidence is part of this standard. Students should be able to access, gather, store, retrieve, and organize data, using hardware and software designed for these purposes. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description--providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standard requires a subject matter knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations. Thinking critically about evidence includes deciding what evidence should be used and accounting for anomalous data. Specifically, students should be able to review data from a simple experiment, summarize the data, and form a logical argument about the cause-and-effect relationships in the experiment. Students should begin to state some explanations in terms of the relationship between two or more variables. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Mathematics is important in all aspects of scientific inquiry. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Energy is a property of many substances and is associated with heat, light, electricity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei, and the nature of a chemical. Energy is transferred in many ways. (Grades 5 - 8) More Details

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  • Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm. (Grade 6) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Solve real-world and mathematical problems by writing and solving equations of the form x + p = q and px = q for cases in which p, q and x are all nonnegative rational numbers. (Grade 6) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division and of fractions to multiply and divide rational numbers. (Grade 7) More Details

    View aligned curriculum

    Do you agree with this alignment?

  • Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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    Do you agree with this alignment?

Suggest an alignment not listed above

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/cla_human_power_activity] to print or download.

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Introduction/Motivation

Photo shows two pairs of students holding human power apparatuses. The teams are ready to each lift a mass of water to determine their own power.
Human power experiment.
copyright
Copyright © 2008 Clarkson University, Potsdam NY

Work is force applied over a distance, and is measured in units of joules (J). That means that work is a measure of energy! Power, the rate at which work is done, is measured in joules per seconds. One J/s is also known as a watt. The watt is named after James Watt, who invented the first steam engine. When he was selling it, he advertised to farmers and miners that it could give more power than a horse. He said that it had 1.5 horsepower. Although the unit of horsepower is still used today, it does not accurately describe how many horses it replaces because not every horse is the same.

Not every person is the same either. How many of your own person power does it take to equal a horse? How about to light up a 60 W light bulb? Do you think you have enough power to do that?

Assessment

Have students complete the activity worksheet and discussion questions and turn in for review and grading.

Other Related Information

This activity was originally published by the Clarkson University K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program and may be accessed at http://internal.clarkson.edu/highschool/k12/project/energysystems.html.

Copyright

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

Contributors

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

Supporting Program

Office of Educational Partnerships, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY

Acknowledgements

This activity was developed under National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 0428127 and DGE 0338216. 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: November 4, 2019

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