Engage: Ready for an Energy Makeover?

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Well, it appears that Fluffy got a little confused about the term makeover. What do you think of when you hear the word makeover?

Explore: World Record Rube Goldberg Machine

Sometimes people will do makeovers on other people to improve their outer appearance, and other times people will perform makeovers on homes. A makeover is a type of change that happens as a result of human intervention. Watch the below video of the Rube Goldberg machine, and record the following data.

1. What forms of energy do you observe?
2. What energy changes, or "makeovers," do you see? List as many as you can before the video ends.


Explain: Energy Transformations

According to the Law of Conservation of Energy, energy is neither created nor destroyed; it just changes forms. A flashlight doesn't create light, the Sun doesn't create heat, and a windmill doesn't create electricity. These are examples of energy changing forms. Sometimes these are changes that happen routinely in the natural world, and sometimes these are "makeovers" where human creations transform energy into a specific form that serves a specific need. Either way, we call these changes energy transformations.

In the Rube Goldberg Machine, you saw chemical energy in a battery transform to electrical energy and then to mechanical energy to turn the Archimedes screw and allow the marble to move. Later in the same machine, chemical energy (baking soda and vinegar reaction) is transformed into mechanical energy which moved a lever. This is an example of humans creating something that will transform energy for a specific purpose. 


An example of an energy transformation that occurs in the natural world is the process of photosynthesis. In the Sun, chemical energy transforms into light and thermal energy. Plants transform the Sun’s light energy into chemical energy during the process of photosynthesis.

A flashlight demonstrates another way that energy is transformed. Chemical energy is stored in the battery. When you flip the switch on the flashlight, chemical energy transforms into electrical energy as the electrons begin to flow through the circuit. As the

electrons are flowing through the circuit, they pass through a resistor, in this case a light bulb. The energy is then transformed into light and heat energy.

Click on the picture of Fluffy below to explore an energy game. Think about what "makeovers," or changes, you see happening to energy, and then review the reflection questions below.

  • What changes, or "makeovers," did you see happening to energy?
  • How do potential and kinetic energy relate to the different forms of energy (radiant/light, thermal, sound, chemical, electrical, and mechanical)?

Elaborate: Energy Transformations Solve a Problem

Download the Texas Water Development Board's "Desalination: Seawater" PDF by clicking the glass of water below. After reviewing all of the information, create a plan to build a device that will extract salt water from the Gulf of Mexico and turn it into freshwater for drinking. The plan must include mechanical, solar, thermal, electrical, and light energy and a clear explanation of how your device will transform the different forms of energy to make your creation work.

Teacher Notes

This resource is a compilation of text, videos, and other elements to create a scaffolded 5E learning experience for students. This is meant for Tier I instruction under the Response to Intervention (RtI) model for grade 6 science TEKS (9)(C), specifically energy transformations.

Be sure to check for prerequisite knowledge and skills as well as differentiation needs by reviewing the entire resource and the related items before assigning it to or working through it with your students.

This resource can be used for instruction in a variety of ways.

• Use with a single computer and projector; this resource can be delivered in a traditional classroom.

• Use with a combination of individual student computers, teacher computer, and projector (in either a computer lab or other 1:1 environment).
• Assign the resource to students as work to do outside of the school day as part of a "flipped classroom" to allow application, practice, and additional support during the school day.
• Use with students as tutorials.
• Share with parents to inform them about what their child is learning in school.
• Use with students who are unable to participate in the traditional classroom environment.

The Engage is meant to be playful and fun. Sometimes all it takes is a silly picture or video to get students thinking about a single word or concept. Not every science lesson needs to start with something academic or science focused; sometimes a smile is all that's needed to engage learners.

Students view a video of a world-record-holding Rube Goldberg machine. This is meant for students to think about how many different types of energy are present and to observe how energy is changing, or having a "makeover."

Classroom Option
If possible, have students experience some hands-on activities that illustrate energy transformations. For example, hand-crank generators are a great example of mechanical energy transformed into electrical energy, which could be transformed into light, heat, sound, and/or mechanical energy depending on what type of circuit is created.

The Explain discusses what energy transformations are, how some occur in the natural world without any human intervention, and how others happen because of human ingenuity to harness different types of energy to meet a particular need. Students should understand that in many situations, such as flashlights, power plants, and solar-powered lights, there are often multiple transformations necessary to reach the desired energy output. Students often have a difficult time understanding the Law of Conservation of Energy: energy is neither created nor destroyed; it just changes forms. In particular, students often think the Sun creates heat and light energy when, in reality, chemical energy is transformed into heat and light energy.

Classroom Option
Advanced or gifted and talented students may be able to engage in a discussion about how the forms of energy may also be labeled as potential or kinetic. 

Real-world application of energy transformations is the theme of the Elaborate. In order for students to accomplish this task, they will need to understand many forms of energy transformations. They will need to be able to use this information to do an energy "makeover" so that they can desalinate the water from the Gulf of Mexico. This portion of the resource may take a week or longer to complete because students will need to create schematics, formulate budgets, build a prototype, present their idea, tweak their idea based on feedback, and share their improvements and overall reflections.