Ohio Resource Center
Simple Thermodynamics of Transportation
7, 9, 10, 11, 12
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Professional Commentary

Students explore energy transformations and are introduced to the laws of thermodynamics in this series of three lessons. In each lesson students explore a different mode of transportation and examine the energy transformations that occur in each. In the first lesson students identify various types of energy and trace energy transformations back to the sun. Lesson 2 requires students to diagram the energy transformations involved in moving a ship up and down river through a series of locks. In the third and final lesson students build their own steam engine and apply the principles behind steam power to the transformation of energy and the laws of thermodynamics.

Please note that the student handout with instructions for building the steam engine can be downloaded from the first page of the site and is included in the PDF copy of the lesson. The links to the videos are nonfunctional, but the lessons could be easily conducted with other videos about kayaking, locks and dams, and steam trains. (author/ts/nmcd/ts)

Next Generation Science Standards (2012)
Scientific and Engineering Practices
Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Crosscutting Concepts
Cause and effect
Energy and matter
Ohio Science Academic Content Standards (2010)
Science Inquiry and Application
Grade 7
Physical Science
Conservation of Mass and Energy
Energy can be transformed or transferred but is never lost.
Energy can be transferred through a variety of ways.
Grade 8
Physical Science
Forces and Motion
Forces between objects act when the objects are in direct contact or when they are not touching.
Forces have magnitude and direction.
There are different types of potential energy.
High School
Physical Science
Forces and Motion
Forces, momentum and motion
Ohio Science Academic Content Standards (2002)
Physical Sciences
Benchmarks (6–8)
Describe that energy takes many forms, some forms represent kinetic energy and some forms represent potential energy; and during energy transformations the total amount of energy remains constant.
Benchmarks (9–10)
Demonstrate that energy can be considered to be either kinetic (motion) or potential (stored).
Explain how energy may change form or be redistributed but the total quantity of energy is conserved.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 7)
Describe how an object can have potential energy due to its position or chemical composition and can have kinetic energy due to its motion.
Identify different forms of energy (e.g., electrical, mechanical, chemical, thermal, nuclear, radiant and acoustic).
Explain how energy can change forms but the total amount of energy remains constant.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 9)
Demonstrate that near Earth's surface an object's gravitational potential energy depends upon its weight (mg where m is the object's mass and g is the acceleration due to gravity) and height (h) above a reference surface (PE=mgh).
Trace the transformations of energy within a system (e.g., chemical to electrical to mechanical) and recognize that energy is conserved. Show that these transformations involve the release of some thermal energy.
Science and Technology
Benchmarks (6–8)
Give examples of how technological advances, influenced by scientific knowledge, affect the quality of life.
Design a solution or product taking into account needs and constraints (e.g., cost, time, trade-offs, properties of materials, safety, aesthetics).
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 6)
Explain how technology influences the quality of life.
Grade Level Indicators (Grade 8)
Evaluate the overall effectiveness of a product design or solution.
National Science Education Standards
Physical Science
Transfer of energy (Grades 5 - 8)
Conservation of energy and increase in disorder (Grades 9 - 12)