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Amazing Rube Goldberg Machines

Description:  Rube Goldberg machines are named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg who drew complicated steps involved in doing a fairly simple task (like pouring milk in a glass). Students can study these machines, or build their own, to show how energy can be converted through a series of interactions. In lower elementary classes they might be shown or built to show how pushes or pulls can change the motion of objects. As they move through school they should start to identify specific collisions, interactions, and conversions of energy.

Web Resources:  Rube Goldberg Machines - Wikipedia

 
 

Slow Motion Golf Ball Collision

Description:  In this dramatic slow motion video a golf ball collides with a piece of steel showing a large amount of compression. Different golf balls are designed to have varying amounts of compression based on the desired behavior of the ball. In a kindergarten class golf balls or baseballs are great examples of pushes causing changes in the motion of an object. In the upper grades this could be a great example of a collision. Students could investigate the behavior of different golf balls (or clubs) and even do some designing themselves.

Web Resource: Golf Ball - Wikipedia

 

Candle-Powered Car

Description:  The candle-powered car is an application of the Seebeck Effect. This effect is the result of thermal energy conversion directly into electricity. This phenomenon can be used in elementary school to show energy conversion from heat to electricity to the kinetic energy of the car. A more detailed explanation will be required in high school related to electron response to temperature differences in different materials. The Seeback circuit used in this candle-powered car can also be connected to a voltmeter and used as a temperature sensing thermocouple.

Web Resource:  Seebeck EffectCandle Car Kit - Amazon

 

Solar Cars

Description: Solar cars use energy from the sun and photovoltaic cells to transport humans. Large solar cars are generally built by universities to compete in solar car races but mini-solar cars can be built in any science classroom. The photovoltaic cells convert solar energy into electricity which runs an electric motor. Energy conversion can be studies within the unit and a solar car design challenge can be used as a culminating design challenge. The criteria and constraints can be modified to the age of the students in the class.

Web Resource: Solar Car - Wikipedia

 

Coupled Pendulum

Description:  The coupled pendulum can be created with either string or a spring connecting the two pendulums. With each swing energy is transferred from one pendulum to the other. If the pendulums both have the same length one pendulum comes to a complete stop before alternating motion. This phenomenon can be used to show balanced and unbalanced forces, how motion can be used to predict future motion, and the conservation of energy.

Web Resource:  L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum

 

Giant Newton's Cradle

Description:  The coupled pendulum can be created with either string or a spring connecting the two pendulums. With each swing energy is transferred from one pendulum to the other. If the pendulums both have the same length one pendulum comes to a complete stop before alternating motion. This phenomenon can be used to show balanced and unbalanced forces, how motion can be used to predict future motion, and the conservation of energy.

Web Resources:  Giant Newtonโ€™s Cradle Website, Wikipedia article