Learning from home? Find hands-on activities perfect for distance learning. Browse now!

Energy

Energy is essential to all living organisms, and provides insight into real-world phenomena that engineers rely on to innovate. Engineers study the different forms of energy to help create things that make our lives easier.

Energy is the ability to do work and is abundant in our everyday life. Energy comes in many forms – thermal, radiant, kinetic, potential, electrical, chemical, nuclear or mechanical – and exists as a part of everything we do, from walking to school or sending astronauts into space. According to the law of conservation of energy, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Energy can, however, be changed from one form to another.

Engineers apply their understanding of energy, including its principles and behavior, to solving real-world problems. This results in the design of everyday products such as cell phones, computer software, electronic music, batteries, radio and television broadcasting, or cameras. Today’s engineers understand the need for renewable energy sources as the world’s energy consumption continues to grow with finite resources. They design methods to capture renewable energy sources – solar, hydro and wind power – to produce clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. During the design process, engineers keep in mind the needs of the application, and optimize a product's characteristics such as power output, ability to recharge, reliability, size, safety, heat generation, length of life cycle, abuse tolerance, cost and ability to be recycled.

Energize your students with the resources below to help them make sense of real-world phenomena related to energy!

A lightbulb being used to depict energy

Energy Curricula

The TeachEngineering engaging resources featured here, by grade band, exemplify energy curricula.

Grades K-2
    Coming Soon!
Grades 3-5
  • Potato Power
    Potato Power

    preview of 'Potato Power' Activity

    Students use potatoes to light an LED clock or light bulb as they learn how a battery works in a simple circuit. They also learn how chemical energy changes to electrical energy and get a better understanding of current, voltage and resistance concepts.

  • What Is the Best Insulator: Air, Styrofoam, Foil or Cotton?
    What Is the Best Insulator: Air, Styrofoam, Foil or Cotton?

    preview of 'What Is the Best Insulator: Air, Styrofoam, Foil or Cotton?' Activity

    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.

  • Wind Power! Designing a Wind Turbine
    Wind Power! Designing a Wind Turbine

    preview of 'Wind Power! Designing a Wind Turbine' Activity

    Students learn how engineers transform wind energy into electrical energy by building their own miniature wind turbines and measuring the electrical current they produce. They explore how design and position affect the electrical energy production.

  • The Energy of Light
    The Energy of Light

    preview of 'The Energy of Light' Lesson

    In this introduction to light energy, students learn about reflection and refraction as they learn that light travels in wave form. Through hands-on activities, they see how prisms, magnifying glasses and polarized lenses work.

  • Wind-Powered Sail Cars
    Wind-Powered Sail Cars

    preview of 'Wind-Powered Sail Cars' Activity

    Student pairs design and construct small, wind-powered sail cars using limited quantities of drinking straws, masking tape, paper and beads. Teams compete to see which sail car travels the farthest when pushed by the wind (simulated by the use of an electric fan). Students learn about wind and kinet...

  • See More
Grades 6-8
  • Bombs Away! Egg Drop Experiment
    Bombs Away! Egg Drop Experiment

    preview of 'Bombs Away! Egg Drop Experiment' Activity

    Students design and build devices to protect and accurately deliver dropped eggs. The devices and their contents represent care packages that must be safely delivered to people in a disaster area with no road access. Similar to engineering design teams, students design their devices using a number o...

  • Keep It Hot!
    Keep It Hot!

    preview of 'Keep It Hot!' Activity

    Student teams design insulated beverage bottles with the challenge to test them to determine which materials (and material thicknesses) work best at insulating hot water to keep it warm for as long as possible. Students test and compare their designs in still air and under a stream of moving air fro...

  • Spool Racer Design & Competition
    Spool Racer Design & Competition

    preview of 'Spool Racer Design & Competition' Activity

    Students see how potential energy (stored energy) can be converted into kinetic energy (motion). Acting as if they were engineers designing vehicles, they use rubber bands, pencils and spools to explore how elastic potential energy from twisted rubber bands can roll the spools. They brainstorm, prot...

  • Move It! Conservation of Energy & Energy Transfer in Crashes
    Move It! Conservation of Energy & Energy Transfer in Crashes

    preview of 'Move It! Conservation of Energy & Energy Transfer in Crashes' Lesson

    Students learn how the conservation of energy applies to impact situations such as a car crash or a falling objects.

  • Energy Conversions
    Energy Conversions

    preview of 'Energy Conversions' Activity

    Students evaluate various everyday energy conversion devices and draw block flow diagrams to show the forms and states of energy into and out of the device.

  • See More
Grades 9-12
  • Energy Skate Park
    Energy Skate Park

    preview of 'Energy Skate Park' Activity

    Students experiment with an online virtual laboratory set at a skate park. They make predictions of graphs before they use the simulation to create graphs of energy vs. time under different conditions.

  • Nanoparticles & Light Energy Experiment: Quantum Dots and Colors
    Nanoparticles & Light Energy Experiment: Quantum Dots and Colors

    preview of 'Nanoparticles & Light Energy Experiment: Quantum Dots and Colors' Activity

    Students are introduced to the physical concept of the colors of rainbows as light energy in the form of waves with distinct wavelengths, but in a different manner than traditional kaleidoscopes. Looking at different quantum dot solutions, they make observations and measurements, and graph their dat...

  • Organic Solar Energy and Berries
    Organic Solar Energy and Berries

    preview of 'Organic Solar Energy and Berries' Activity

    Students learn about how a device made with dye from a plant, specifically cherries, blackberries, raspberries and/or black currents, can be used to convert light energy into electrical energy. They do this by building their own organic solar cells and measuring the photovoltaic devices' performance...

  • Energy on a Roller Coaster
    Energy on a Roller Coaster

    preview of 'Energy on a Roller Coaster' Activity

    Students learn about the conservation of energy and the impact of friction as they use a roller coaster track to collect position data and then calculate velocity and energy data. After the lab, students relate the conversion of potential and kinetic energy to the conversion of energy used in a hybr...

  • Energy in Collisions: Rolling Ramp and Review (for High School)
    Energy in Collisions: Rolling Ramp and Review (for High School)

    preview of 'Energy in Collisions: Rolling Ramp and Review (for High School)' Activity

    In this hands-on activity—rolling a ball down an incline and having it collide into a cup—the concepts of mechanical energy, work and power, momentum, and friction are all demonstrated. During the activity, students take measurements and use equations that describe these energy of motion concepts to...

  • See More
Free K-12 standards-aligned STEM curriculum for educators everywhere.
Find more at TeachEngineering.org