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.
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.
What Is the Best Insulator: Air, Styrofoam, Foil or Cotton? Elementary School Activity
That heat flows from hot to cold is an unavoidable truth of life. People have put a lot of effort into stopping this natural physical behavior, however all they have been able to do is slow the process. Student teams investigate the properties of insulators in their attempts to keep cups of water from freezing, and once frozen, to keep them from melting.
Testing Model Structures: Jell-O Earthquake in the Classroom Elementary School Activity
Students learn how engineers design and construct buildings to withstand earthquake damage by building their own model structures using toothpicks and marshmallows. They experiment to see how earthquake-proof their buildings are by testing them in an earthquake simulated in a pan of Jell-O®.
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.
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.
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.
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).
What Is Newton's Third Law? Middle School Lesson
Students are introduced to Newton's third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. They practice identifying action-reaction force pairs for a variety of real-world examples, and draw and explain simplified free-body diagram vectors (arrows) of force, velocity and acceleration for them. They also learn that engineers apply Newton's third law and an understanding of reaction forces when designing a wide range of creations, from rockets and aircraft to door knobs, rifles and medicine delivery systems. This lesson is the third in a series of three lessons intended to be taught prior to a culminating associated activity to complete the unit.
Properties of Mixtures vs. Solutions: Mix It Up! Elementary School Lesson
Students are introduced to the distinctive properties of mixtures and solutions. A class demonstration led by the teachers gives students the opportunity to compare and contrast the physical characteristics of a few simple mixtures and solutions. They discuss the separation of mixtures and solutions back into their original components as well as different engineering applications of mixtures and solutions.
Creating Model Working Lungs: Just Breathe Elementary School Activity
Students explore the inhalation/exhalation process that occurs in the lungs during respiration. Using everyday materials, each student team creates a model pair of lungs.
Volcanic Panic! Elementary School Lesson
Students learn about the causes, composition and types of volcanoes. They begin with an overview of the Earth's interior and how volcanoes form. Once students know how volcanoes function, they learn how engineers predict eruptions. In a class demonstration, students watch and measure a mock volcanic eruption and observe the eruption phases, seeing how a volcano gets its shape and provides us with clues to predict a blast.
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.
Spaghetti Bridges Middle School Activity
Civil engineers design structures such as buildings, dams, highways and bridges. Student teams explore the field of engineering by making bridges using spaghetti as their primary building material. Then they test their bridges to see how much weight they can carry before breaking.
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