At this point in the unit, students have learned about Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle, Bernoulli's principle, and why above-ground storage tanks are of major concern in the Houston Ship Channel and other coastal areas. In this culminating activity, student groups act as engineering design teams to derive equations to determine the stability of specific above-ground storage tank scenarios with given tank specifications and liquid contents. With their floatation analyses completed and the stability determined, students analyze the tank stability in specific storm conditions. Then, teams are challenged to come up with improved storage tank designs to make them less vulnerable to uplift, displacement and buckling in storm conditions. Teams present their analyses and design ideas in short class presentations.
Students are provided with an introduction to above-ground storage tanks, specifically how and why they are used in the Houston Ship Channel. The introduction includes many photographic examples of petrochemical tank failures during major storms and describes the consequences in environmental pollution and costs to disrupted businesses and lives, as well as the lack of safety codes and provisions to better secure the tanks in coastal regions regularly visited by hurricanes. Students learn how the concepts of Archimedes' principle and Pascal's law act out in the form of the uplifting and buckling seen in the damaged and destroyed tanks, which sets the stage for the real-world engineering challenge presented in the associated activity to design new and/or improved storage tanks that can survive storm conditions.
Students are introduced to Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and Bernoulli's principle. Fundamental definitions, equations, practice problems and engineering applications are supplied. A PowerPoint® presentation, practice problems and grading rubric are provided.
Students observe Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and the ideal gas law as a Cartesian diver moves within a closed system. The Cartesian diver is neutrally buoyant and begins to sink when an external pressure is applied to the closed system. A basic explanation and proof of this process is provided in this activity, and supplementary ideas for more extensive demonstrations and independent group activities are presented.
From drinking fountains at playgrounds, water systems in homes, and working bathrooms at schools to hydraulic bridges and levee systems, fluid mechanics are an essential part of daily life. Fluid mechanics, the study of how forces are applied to fluids, is outlined in this unit as a sequence of two lessons and three corresponding activities. The first lesson provides a basic introduction to Pascal's law, Archimedes' principle and Bernoulli's principle and presents fundamental definitions, equations and problems to solve with students, as well as engineering applications. The second lesson provides a basic introduction to above-ground storage tanks, their pervasive use in the Houston Ship Channel, and different types of storage tank failure in major storms and hurricanes. The unit concludes with students applying what they have learned to determine the stability of individual above-ground storage tanks given specific storm conditions so they can analyze their stability in changing storm conditions, followed by a project to design their own storage tanks to address the issues of uplift, displacement and buckling in storm conditions.
Students are presented with a challenge question that they must answer with scientific and mathematical reasoning. The challenge question is: "You have a large rock on a boat that is floating in a pond. You throw the rock overboard and it sinks to the bottom of the pond. Does the water level in the pond rise, drop or remain the same?" Students observe Archimedes' principle in action in this model recreation of the challenge question when a toy boat is placed in a container of water and a rock is placed on the floating boat. Students use terminology learned in the classroom as well as critical thinking skills to derive equations needed to answer this question.