Students construct rockets from balloons propelled along a guide string. They use this model to learn about Newton's three laws of motion, examining the effect of different forces on the motion of the rocket.
Students make a skydiver and parachute contraption to demonstrate how drag caused by air resistance slows the descent of skydivers as they travel back to Earth. Gravity pulls the skydiver toward the Earth, while the air trapped by the parachute provides an upward resisting force (drag) on the skydiver.
In this hands-on activity, students explore the electrical force that takes place between two objects. Each student builds an electroscope and uses the device to draw conclusions about objects' charge intensity. Students also determine what factors influence electric force.
Students create their own anemometers instruments for measuring wind speed. They see how an anemometer measures wind speed by taking measurements at various school locations. They also learn about different types of anemometers, real-world applications, and how wind speed information helps engineers decide where to place wind turbines.
We are surrounded everyday by circuits that utilize "in parallel" and "in series" circuitry. Complicated circuits designed by engineers are made of many simpler parallel and series circuits. In this hands-on activity, students build parallel circuits, exploring how they function and their unique features.
Everyday we are surrounded by circuits that use "in parallel" and "in series" circuitry. Complicated circuits designed by engineers are composed of many simpler parallel and series circuits. During this activity, students build a simple series circuit and discover the properties associated with series circuits.
In the exploration of ways to use solar energy, students investigate the thermal energy storage capacities of different test materials to determine which to use in passive solar building design.
Students observe the relationship between the angle of a catapult (a force measurement) and the flight of a cotton ball. They learn how Newton's second law of motion works by seeing directly that F = ma. When they pull the metal "arm" back further, thus applying a greater force to the cotton ball, it causes the cotton ball to travel faster and farther. Students also learn that objects of greater mass require more force to result in the same distance traveled by a lighter object.
Students use balloons to perform several simple experiments to explore static electricity and charge polarization.
In the everyday electrical devices we use calculators, remote controls and cell phones a voltage source such as a battery is required to close the circuit and operate the device. In this hands-on activity, students use batteries, wires, small light bulbs and light bulb holders to learn the difference between an open circuit and a closed circuit, and understand that electric current only occurs in a closed circuit.
Students learn about current electricity and necessary conditions for the existence of an electric current. Students construct a simple electric circuit and a galvanic cell to help them understand voltage, current and resistance.
Students drop water from different heights to demonstrate the conversion of water's potential energy to kinetic energy. They see how varying the height from which water is dropped affects the splash size. They follow good experiment protocol, take measurements, calculate averages and graph results. In seeing how falling water can be used to do work, they also learn how this energy transformation figures into the engineering design and construction of hydroelectric power plants, dams and reservoirs.
Students gain an understanding of the difference between electrical conductors and insulators, and experience recognizing a conductor by its material properties. In a hands-on activity, students build a conductivity tester to determine whether different objects are conductors or insulators. In another activity, students use their understanding of electrical properties to choose appropriate materials to design and build their own basic circuit switch.
Students learn about weight and drag forces by making paper helicopters and measuring how adding more weight affects the time it takes for the helicopters to fall to the ground.
To learn how friction affects motion, students explore how different textures provide varying amounts of friction to objects moving across them. They build a tool to measure the amount of friction between a note card and various surfaces by measuring the distance that a rubber band stretches. They experiment with a range of materials to determine which provides the least/most friction.
Students learn about the nature of thermal energy, temperature and how materials store thermal energy. They discuss the difference between conduction, convection and radiation of thermal energy, and complete activities in which they investigate the difference between temperature, thermal energy and the heat capacity of different materials. Students also learn how some engineering requires an understanding of thermal energy.
Students relate thermal energy to heat capacity by comparing the heat capacities of different materials and graphing the change in temperature over time for a specific material. Students learn why heat capacity is an important property of thermal energy that engineers use in many applications.
Students learn how the sun can be used for energy. They learn about passive solar heating, lighting and cooking, and active solar engineering technologies (such as photovoltaic arrays and concentrating mirrors) that generate electricity. Students investigate the thermal energy storage capacities of test materials. They learn about radiation and convection as they build a model solar water heater and determine how much it can heat water in a given amount of time. In another activity, students build and compare the performance of four solar cooker designs. In an associated literacy activity, students investigate how people live "off the grid" using solar power.
During a power failure, or when we go outside at night, we grab a flashlight so we can find our way. What happens inside a flashlight that makes the bulb light up? Why do we need a switch to turn on a flashlight? Have you ever noticed that for the flashlight to work you must orient the batteries a certain way as you insert them into the casing? Many people do not know that a flashlight is a simple series circuit. In this hands-on activity, students build this everyday household item and design their own operating series circuit flashlights.
Students learn about the difference between temperature and thermal energy. They build a thermometer using simple materials and develop their own scale for measuring temperature. They compare their thermometer to a commercial thermometer, and get a sense for why engineers need to understand the properties of thermal energy.