In this activity, students act as power engineers by specifying the power plants to build for a community. They are given a budget, an expected power demand from the community, and different power plant options with corresponding environmental effects. They can work through this scenario as a class or on their own.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
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- Colorado: Science
- c. Describe the energy transformation that takes place in electrical circuits where light, heat, sound, and magnetic effects are produced (Grade 4)  ...show
- d. Use multiple resources - including print, electronic, and human - to locate information about different sources of renewable and nonrenewable energy (Grade 4)  ...show
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- 8. Solve two-step word problems using the four operations. Represent these problems using equations with a letter standing for the unknown quantity. Assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies including rounding. (Grade 3)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 3 - 5)  ...show
- Define renewable and non-renewable energy.
- List some renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
- Use what they learn about energy sources to act as engineers and decide the best power plants for a small community
For each group:
- One copy of the Powering Smallsburg worksheet.
For the entire class to share:
- Powering Smallsburg Overhead 1
- Use of an overhead projector
Before the Activity
With the Students
- Pass out the Powering Smallsburg Worksheet (keep a copy of the worksheet available for yourself as a reference).
- Have students write the name of their engineer in the first box on the sheet.
- Next, place Power Smallsburg Overhead 1 up for students to see. Discuss this overhead with the students. (Tell students that when selecting a power plant to make electricity, several things need to be considered besides whether the energy source is renewable or non-renewable.)
- Tell students that the decision for what type of power plant to use is often made by community leaders and power engineers. Discuss what they think is most important, providing inexpensive power that puts out emissions (pollution) that affect the environment and people's health but allows the community to buy other improvements, or focusing on the development of clean energy at the expense of other improvements? Perhaps the best choice is a mixture of the two. Let the students know that when they do the worksheet, s/he will decide.
- Next, use the following discussions (steps 6-8) to go through the worksheet with your students. (For older students, you can have them try the worksheet on their own first.)
- Have the students write in their answer to Question 1 on their worksheets.
- Read the explanation provided and have the students answer questions 2-6 on their Powering Smallsburg Worksheet. (Tell students: The community of Smallsburg has about $250 million to spend. They need to provide power to the community, but they have other uses for that money as well, such as providing social services, making road improvements or building public parks. Can you think of other things a community might spend its money on? Your worksheet provides you with some power plant options and how much they cost.)
- Have the students think about what they would do with their leftover money and then answer question 7.
- Have a short discussion with the class. Ask the students what combination of power plants should the community leaders and the power engineers pick for Smallsburg?
- If time permits, have the student draw a picture of their community, including the power plants, the buildings, the community improvements, and the environment.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Canine, Craig. Natural Resources Defense Council, onearth, Fall 2005, "How to Clean Coal," accessed January 8, 2007. http://www.nrdc.org/onearth/05fal/coal1.asp
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Energy Kids' Page, accessed January 8, 2007. http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/
U.S. Department of Energy, Fossil Energy, Clean Coal & Natural Gas Power Systems, "Clean Coal Technology & the President's Clean Coal Power Initiative," October 25, 2006. http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/cleancoal/
U.S. Department of Energy, Fossil Energy, Clean Coal & Natural Gas Power Systems, "FutureGen - Tomorrow's Pollution-Free Power Plant," December 14, 2006, accessed January 8, 2007. http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/futuregen/
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia, "Coal," accessed January 8, 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal
Frank Burkholder, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Janet Yowell
© 2006 by Regents of the University of Colorado.
Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
Last modified: February 5, 2016