Electricity allows engineers to create systems and devices to benefit all areas of society including entertainment, healthcare, transportation, space travel and more! The phenomenon of electricity inspires innovation in engineering.
The ability to harness electricity has completely changed the world we live in and has improved the quality of life for billions of people around the globe. While the existence of electricity has been known since ancient times, Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiment in 1752 – among many others – sparked the science community to investigate this unique natural phenomenon. British scientist Michael Faraday made one of the first major breakthroughs in electricity when he discovered the basic principles of energy generation in 1831.
Electricity is defined as the presence and flow of electrons or electric charge. There are two major types of electricity:
- Static electricity is generated by sudden contact or friction and causes electrons to gather and remain at rest until they are discharged. It is usually uncontrolled and happens sporadically.
- Current electricity is what makes all of our electronic devices and gadgets work. It is the phenomenon of electrons constantly flowing through conducting materials such as copper, iron or even through ions in water.
Engineers study the different forms of electricity to design and invent new devices and technology to light our rooms, power our domestic appliances (stoves, air conditioning, ect.), power the screens we use for watching television, updating medical charts, talking with our friends across the globe, or even powering our cars.Electricity has revolutionized modern life and allowed technology to evolve rapidly.
Chemical engineers study the reactions responsible for producing charged particles to create electricity. Material engineers make many substances that serve as conductors and insulators. Electrical engineers are able to control electricity by changing the current or resistivity in a system.
Jump start your students on making sense of the phenomenon of electricity through the curricular resources featured here, by grade band!
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- What Is Electricity? What Is Electricity?
Students are introduced to the concept of electricity by identifying it as an unseen, but pervasive and important presence in their lives. They compare conductors and insulators based on their capabilities for electron flow. Then water and electrical systems are compared as an analogy to electrical ...
- Is It Shocking? Is It Shocking?
To better understand electricity, students investigate the properties of materials based on their ability to dispel static electricity. . Students learn to identify materials that hold static charge as insulators and materials that dispel charge as conductors. The class applies the results from thei...
- What Is Bluetooth? What Is Bluetooth?
Students learn about electrical connections, how they work and their pervasiveness in our world. They learn the Morse code rules and translate a few phrases into Morse code. Specifically, they learn about a wireless connection type known as Bluetooth that can be used to control LEGO robots remotely ...
- Electrifying the World Electrifying the World
Students are introduced to the fundamental concepts of electricity. They address questions such as "How is electricity generated?" and "How is it used in every-day life?" Illustrative examples of circuit diagrams are used to help explain how electricity flows.
- Charge It! All About Electrical Attraction and Repulsion Charge It! All About Electrical Attraction and Repulsion
Students use balloons to perform several simple experiments to explore static electricity and charge polarization.
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- Electricity & Magnetism: Whose Field Line Is It, Anyway? Electricity & Magnetism: Whose Field Line Is It, Anyway?
Students teams each use a bar magnet, sheet of paper and iron shavings to reveal the field lines as they travel around a magnet. They see that the current flowing through a wire produces a magnetic field around the wire and that this magnetic field induced by electricity is no different than that pr...
- Yogurt Cup Speakers Yogurt Cup Speakers
Students are introduced to the role of electricity and magnetism as they build speakers. They also explore the properties of magnets, create electromagnets, and determine the directions of magnetic fields.
- The Electric and Magnetic Personalities of Mr. Maxwell The Electric and Magnetic Personalities of Mr. Maxwell
Students are briefly introduced to Maxwell's equations and their significance to phenomena associated with electricity and magnetism. Basic concepts such as current, electricity and field lines are covered and reinforced. Through multiple topics and activities, students see how electricity and magne...
- Saltwater Circuit Saltwater Circuit
Students build a saltwater circuit, which is an electrical circuit that uses saltwater as part of the circuit. Students investigate the conductivity of saltwater, and develop an understanding of how the amount of salt in a solution impacts how much electrical current flows through the circuit.
- Power for Developing Countries Power for Developing Countries
Working in groups, students look at three different villages in various parts of Africa and design economically viable engineering solutions to answer the energy needs of the off-the-grid small towns, given limited budgets. Each village has different nearby resources, both renewable and nonrenewable...
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- Solar Farm Cost-Benefit Analysis Solar Farm Cost-Benefit Analysis
For a hypothetical solar farm design problem, students are given a solar cost-benefit analysis sheet to complete within groups. They weigh the expense and benefits of two types of solar panels (with different costs, wattage outputs and land impacts), consider the cost of using the acreage for solar ...
- Ohm's Law I Ohm's Law I
Students experiment to increase the intensity of a light bulb by testing batteries in series and parallel circuits. They learn about Ohm's law, power, parallel and series circuits, and ways to measure voltage and current.
- Introduction to Circuits and Ohm's Law Introduction to Circuits and Ohm's Law
Students explore the basics of DC circuits, analyzing the light from light bulbs when connected in series and parallel circuits. Students measure and see the effect of power dissipation from the light bulbs.
- Maximum Power Point Maximum Power Point
Students learn how to find the maximum power point (MPP) of a photovoltaic (PV) panel in order to optimize its efficiency at creating solar power. They also learn about real-world applications and technologies that use this technique, as well as Ohm's law and the power equation, which govern a PV pa...
- What's the Conductivity of Gatorade? What's the Conductivity of Gatorade?
Students use conductivity meters to measure various salt and water solutions, as indicated by the number of LEDs (light emitting diodes) that illuminate on the meter. Students create calibration curves using known amounts of table salt dissolved in water and their corresponding conductivity readings...
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