Through a series of four lessons, students are introduced to many factors that affect the power output of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. Factors such as the angle of the sun, temperature of the panels, specific circuit characteristics, and reflected radiation determine the efficiency of solar panels. These four lessons are paired with hands-on activities in which students design, build and test small photovoltaic systems. Students collect their own data, and examine different variables to deter
Can You Resist This?
This lab demonstrates Ohm’s Law by allowing the students to set up a simple circuit composed of a battery, lamp, and resistor. They are able to calculate the current following through the circuit they create mathematically, by solving the linear equation. After solving for the current, I, for each set resistance value, the students will plot the three points on a Cartesian plane and note the line that is formed. They also see the direct correlation between the amount of current flowing through
A Shot Under Pressure
Students use their understanding of projectile physics and fluid dynamics to find the water pressure in water guns. By measuring the range of the water jets, they are able to calculate the theoretical pressure. Students create graphs to analyze how the predicted pressure relates to the number of times they pump the water gun before shooting.
How Far Does a Lava Flow Go?
While learning about volcanoes, magma and lava flows, students learn about the properties of liquid movement, coming to understand viscosity and other factors that increase and decrease liquid flow. They also learn about lava composition and its risk to human settlements.
Students learn about Pascal’s law, an important concept behind the engineering of dam and lock systems, such as the one that Thirsty County wants Splash Engineering to design for the Birdseye River (an ongoing hypothetical engineering scenario). Students observe the behavior of water in plastic water bottles spilling through holes punctured at different heights, seeing the distance water spurts from the holes, learning how water at a given depth exerts equal pressure in all directions, and how
The students discover the basics of heat transfer in this activity by constructing a constant pressure calorimeter to determine the heat of solution of potassium chloride in water. They first predict the amount of heat consumed by the reaction using analytical techniques. Then they calculate the specific heat of water using tabulated data, and use this information to predict the temperature change. Next, the students will design and build a calorimeter and then determine its specific heat. After
Snow vs. Water
Engineers work in many fields associated with precipitation. Engineers study glaciers to better understand their dates of formation and current demise. They deal with issues of pollution transport and water yield, and they monitor reservoirs and dams to prevent flooding.
Ramp and Review (for High Scool)
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 calculate unknown variables and review the relationships between these concepts.
Simon Says Big Amplitude, Small Wavelength!
In this activity, students play the game Simon Says to make the amplitudes and wavelengths defined by the teacher. First they play alone, and then they play with a partner using a piece of rope.
Plant Cycles: Photosynthesis & Transpiration
What do plants need? Students examine the effects of light and air on green plants, learning the processes of photosynthesis and transpiration. Student teams plant seeds, placing some in sunlight and others in darkness. They make predictions about the outcomes and record ongoing observations of the condition of the stems, leaves and roots. Then, several healthy plants are placed in glass jars with lids overnight. Condensation forms, illustrating the process of transpiration, or the release of mo
The Fundamental Building Blocks of Matter
This lesson plan explores the fundamentals of atoms and their structure. The building blocks of matter (protons, electrons, neutrons) are covered in detail. Students think about how atoms and molecules can influence new technologies developed by engineers.
Students learn about the Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon. They discuss the Moon’s surface features and human exploration. They also learn about how engineers develop technologies to study and explore the Moon, which also helps us learn more about the Earth.
Students become familiar with the Engineering Design Process as they design and build prototypes for a chair. The miniature chair must be sturdy and functional enough to hold a wooden, hinged artist model or floppy stuffed animal.
Using Spectral Data to Explore Saturn and Titan
Students use authentic spectral data from the Cassini mission of Saturn and Saturn’s moon, Titan, gathered by instrumentation developed by engineers. Taking these unknown data, and comparing it with known data, students determine the chemical composition of Saturn’s rings and Titan’s atmosphere.
Just Plane Simple
This lesson introduces students to three of the six simple machines used by many engineers. These machines include the inclined plane, the wedge and the screw. In general, engineers use the inclined plane to lift heavy loads, the wedge to cut materials apart, and the screw to convert rotational motion into linear movement. Furthermore, the mechanical advantage describes how easily each machine can do work and is determined by its physical dimensions.
This Lesson provides two different activities that require students to measure energy outputs and inputs to determine the efficiency of conversions and simple systems. One of the activities includes Lego motors and accomplishing work. The other investigates energy for heating water. They learn about by products of energy conversions and how to improve upon efficiency. The teacher can choose to use either of these or both of these. The calculations in the water heating experiment are more complic
Engineering in Reverse!
Students learn about the process of reverse engineering and how this technique is used to improve upon technology. In this activity, students analyze a push-toy and draw a diagram of the predicted mechanisms inside the toy. Then, they disassemble the toy and draw the actual inner mechanisms. By understanding how the push-toy functions, students make suggestions for improvement, such as cost effectiveness, improved functionality, ecological friendliness and any additional functionality they deter
Energy Sources Research
Fact sheets are provided for several different energy resources as a starting point for students to conduct literature research on the way these systems work and their various pros and cons. Students complete a worksheet for homework or take more time in class for research and presentation of their findings to the class. This approach requires students to learn for themselves and to teach each other – rather than having a teacher lecture about the various sources and systems.
Energy Systems Activity
Posters are provided for several different energy conversion systems. The students are provided with cards that give the name and a description of each of the components in the energy system. They have to match these with the figures on the diagram. Since the groups look at different systems, they must also describe their results with the class to share their knowledge.
This lesson introduces students to the idea of biomimicry — or looking to nature for engineering ideas. Biomimicry involves solving human problems by mimicking natural solutions, and it works well because the solutions exist naturally. There are numerous examples of useful applications of biomimicry, and in this lesson we look at a few fun examples.