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Upper El (Mr. D): Light it Up!



Starting last week, UE began their final Science & Engineering project: Light it Up!

This year has been all about energy and how different types of energy transform into others. We talked earlier in the year that if you could spin a rod, you could create electrical energy from any other starting energy, whether gravitational, chemical, or something else. We went on a field trip to Cowin's Ford Hydroelectric Plant to see water energy (really gravitational) turn a rod to generate electricity for the homes around us.

Now, it was UE's turn to make some electricity.

Using small AC generators, students can turn the rod, which spins magnets around coils of copper wire, generating electricity to light up a small LED light bulb. Their goal is to use any starting energy (chemical, gravitational, elastic, etc.) and spin their generator to light up their bulb for 10 seconds.

Also, they are to try to use nature as is before we bring in fans to simulate wind and so on—an added challenge, but better to aim high and come up a little short.

Where do we begin an assignment like this? With some research!

First, we listed all the different types of energy we spoke about this year and looked at some of the examples we saw to spin a rod, like the Gravity Light and Water Turbines. Then, it was on to the first part of their project: choosing a starting energy and researching designs.

Before moving on to the building, students needed to create a blueprint for their design. Then, they had to explain how their research helped them make their design choices. Why did they choose certain aspects of the plan? This took all of last week and came with a purpose. I wanted UE to slow down on their building process a bit. Everyone wants to jump right in, which is great, but without research, we could make life so much harder for ourselves and not fully understand what we're trying to build.

So, we spent time drawing blueprints and reflecting on our design. The students really did great with this, and along the way, I would ask questions and propose challenges to consider with their designs. Some went on to run small experiments to see if their design could work. There was some outstanding research done!


This week, it's been all about building. This phase we call, "Build it, Test it, Tweak it, Test it, Tweak it..." That's essentially the engineering building process. No matter how much research we do, we will encounter some things that must be adjusted and tweaked.

Naturally, everyone is experiencing some challenges in this part. We're finding out the features of our design that don't work at all or need to be amended. This can sometimes be frustrating, but we can always walk away from our builds to come back with a fresh perspective.

So far, we're off to a great start. We also have many different starting energies being used, which is exciting. We have gravitational, chemical, water, wind, heat, and elastic energies. Some might be hard, and they might not work in the end. But, with every engineering project, we'll learn why it doesn't work and why another one does. Each individual project is a lesson for the entire group.

Alright. Until next week!

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