Physics of Roller Coasters Middle School Lesson
Students explore the physics exploited by engineers in designing today's roller coasters, including potential and kinetic energy, friction and gravity. First, they learn that all true roller coasters are completely driven by the force of gravity and that the conversion between potential and kinetic energy is essential to all roller coasters. Second, they consider the role of friction in slowing down cars in roller coasters. Finally, they examine the acceleration of roller coaster cars as they travel around the track. During the associated activity, students design, build and analyze model roller coasters they make using foam tubing and marbles (as the cars).
Engineering: Simple Machines Elementary School Lesson
Simple machines are devices with few or no moving parts that make work easier. Students are introduced to the six types of simple machines — the wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, and pulley — in the context of the construction of a pyramid, gaining high-level insights into tools that have been used since ancient times and are still in use today. In two hands-on activities, students begin their own pyramid design by performing materials calculations, and evaluating and selecting a construction site. The six simple machines are examined in more depth in subsequent lessons in this unit.
Potato Power Elementary School Activity
Students use potatoes to light an LED clock (or light bulb) as they learn how a battery works in a simple circuit and how chemical energy changes to electrical energy. As they learn more about electrical energy, they better understand the concepts of voltage, current and resistance.
Water Resources: Why Do We Build Dams? Elementary School Lesson
Students are introduced to the concept of a dam and its potential benefits, which include water supply, electricity generation, flood control, recreation and irrigation. This lesson begins an ongoing classroom scenario in which student engineering teams working for the Splash Engineering firm design dams for a fictitious client, Thirsty County.
Powerful Pulleys Elementary School Lesson
Students continue to explore the story of building a pyramid, learning about the simple machine called a pulley. They learn how a pulley can be used to change the direction of applied forces and move/lift extremely heavy objects, and the powerful mechanical advantages of using a multiple-pulley system. Students perform a simple demonstration to see the mechanical advantage of using a pulley, and they identify modern day engineering applications of pulleys. In a hands-on activity, they see how a pulley can change the direction of a force, the difference between fixed and movable pulleys, and the mechanical advantage gained with multiple / combined pulleys. They also learn the many ways engineers use pulleys for everyday purposes.
What Is Energy? Elementary School Lesson
With an introduction to the ideas of energy, students discuss specific energy types and practical energy sources. Associated hands-on activities help them identify energy types in their surroundings and enhance their understanding of the concept of energy.
Designing Bridges Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the types of possible loads, how to calculate ultimate load combinations, and investigate the different sizes for the beams (girders) and columns (piers) of simple bridge design. They learn the steps that engineers use to design bridges: understanding the problem, determining the potential bridge loads, calculating the highest possible load, and calculating the amount of material needed to resist the loads.
Building Roller Coasters Middle School Activity
Students build their own small-scale model roller coasters using pipe insulation and marbles, and then analyze them using physics principles learned in the associated lesson. They examine conversions between kinetic and potential energy and frictional effects to design roller coasters that are completely driven by gravity. A class competition using different marbles types to represent different passenger loads determines the most innovative and successful roller coasters.
Architects and Engineers: Working Together to Design Structures Elementary School Lesson
Students explore the interface between architecture and engineering. In the associated hands-on activity, students act as both architects and engineers by designing and building a small parking garage.
Bernoulli's Principle High School Lesson
Bernoulli's principle relates the pressure of a fluid to its elevation and its speed. Bernoulli's equation can be used to approximate these parameters in water, air or any fluid that has very low viscosity. Students learn about the relationships between the components of the Bernoulli equation through real-life engineering examples and practice problems.
Design Step 1: Identify the Need High School Activity
Students practice the initial steps involved in an engineering design challenge. They begin by reviewing the steps of the engineering design loop and discussing the client need for the project. Next, they identify a relevant context, define the problem within their design teams, and examine the project's requirements and constraints. (Note: Conduct this activity in the context of a design project that students are working on, which could be a challenge determined by the teacher, brainstormed with the class, or the example project challenge provided [to design a prosthetic arm that can perform a mechanical function].)
Waves and Wave Properties Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the types of waves and how they change direction, as well as basic wave properties such as wavelength, frequency, amplitude and speed. During the presentation of lecture information on wave characteristics and properties, students take notes using a handout. Then they label wave parts on a worksheet diagram and draw their own waves with specified properties (crest, trough and wavelength). They also make observations about the waves they drew to determine which has the highest and the lowest frequency. With this knowledge, students better understand waves and are a step closer to understanding how humans see color.
Creating an Electromagnet Elementary School Activity
Student teams investigate the properties of electromagnets. They create their own small electromagnets and experiment with ways to change their strength to pick up more paperclips. Students learn about ways that engineers use electromagnets in everyday applications.
Strength of Materials Middle School Lesson
Students learn about the variety of materials used by engineers in the design and construction of modern bridges. They also find out about the material properties important to bridge construction and consider the advantages and disadvantages of steel and concrete as common bridge-building materials to handle compressive and tensile forces.
Put a Spark in It! - Electricity Elementary School Unit
Uncountable times every day—with the merest flick of a finger—each one of us calls on electricity to do our bidding. What would your life be like without electricity? Students begin learning about electricity with an introduction to the most basic unit in ordinary matter, the atom. Once the components of an atom are addressed and understood, students move into the world of electricity. First, they explore static electricity, followed by basic current electricity concepts such as voltage, resistance and open/closed circuits. Next, they learn about that wonderful can full of chemicals—the battery. Students may get a "charge" as they discover the difference between a conductor and an insulator. The unit concludes with lessons investigating simple circuits arranged "in series" and "in parallel," including the benefits and unique features associated with each. Through numerous hands-on activities, students move cereal and foam using charged combs, use balloons to explore electricity and charge polarization, build and use electroscopes to evaluate objects' charge intensities, construct simple switches using various materials in circuits that light bulbs, build and use simple conductivity testers to evaluate materials and solutions, build and experiment with simple series and parallel circuits, design and build their own series circuit flashlight, and draw circuits using symbols.
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