Description: The Gravity Light converts potential energy that is stored in a weight into light. The principles involved in this design are very similar to the principles in a cuckoo clock, with the potential energy of the weight being converted to solar energy rather than kinetic energy. Gravity Lights can replace kerosene lights in the developing world with a safe alternative. The phenomenon can be used to illustrate the conversion of potential gravitational energy into other forms of energy. More importantly it conveys the message of sustainability and social responsibility.
Description: An Earthship is a passive solar house that is designed to be off the electrical grid. It is generally constructed with natural and recycled materials. Much of the structure of the house is made with recycled tires that are filled with dirt. Thermal mass from the dirt, solar energy from the Sun, and cross-ventilation are used to keep the temperature within the house in a comfortable zone. This phenomenon can be used study thermal energy transfer, energy conservation, and human sustainability.
Web Resource: Earthship - Wikipedia
Description: Algae food and fuel hope to reduce human dependence on fossil fuels and avert food shortages around the world. Algae fuel works in the same way as fossil fuels but the carbon dioxide released during combustion is carbon taken from the atmosphere in algae photosynthesis. Algae can also be used to create animal feed which currently uses large amounts of soil and water resources. This phenomenon can be use in an energy unit or life science unit related to mass and energy.
Web Resource: Algae Fuel - Wikipedia
Description: Precious Plastics was created in 2013 by Dave Hakkens. It is a website that shares DIY plans for building machines that can recycle plastic. Plastic is recreated through a non-reversible reaction and if it isn't recycled this valuable plastic is often lost forever when it is dumped in a landfill. These plans have spawned a community of DIY plastic recyclers around the world. Even though most students lack the ability to construct these machines it may lead to simple projects like the Ecobricks project linked below.
Description: Dams provide hydroelectric power and recreation to much of the Pacific Northwest. However these dams block the normal migration of salmon upstream to spawn. Whoosh Systems has created a "salmon cannon" that may the problem of salmon migration. Salmon are moved up a vacuum tube and launched into the water above the dam.
Description: The specific cause (or causes) of colony collapse disorder has not been found but the fact that a number of bees are dying is clear. This will have massive economic impacts since many of the foods we eat are pollinated by bees. Since humans are both impacting and being impacted by this problem it can be used as an engineering problem in need of a solution.
Web Resource: Colony Collapse Disorder - Wikipedia
Description: The Google Maps Timelapse engine allows you to see the impacts of humans on local environments over the last three decades. Use the search box to find local human impacts.
Local phenomenon (e.g. housing developments, logging, shrinking water reservoirs, etc.) can lead to local solutions to human impacts on the land and water.
Web Resource: Google Maps Timelapse