Investigation of Energy Options

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SWBAT test and compare the amount of energy produced from a variety of clean, renewable energy options.

Big Idea

Students invesigate and compare the amount of energy produced from hand generators, water wheels, batteries, windmills and solar cells to determine the type of energy source they will use in their new society design.


25 minutes

There are a lot of energy options available for students to research, however not all of them have the ability to be physically tested by students.  During this lesson, which will take several days to complete, students will investigate the energy produced using hand generators, batteries, water wheels, wind turbines and solar cells and determine other forms of energy production similar to their preferred option following testing.  Students will then finalize their choice in which source(s) will be used to power their new society.

I begin this lesson by explaining to students that they will be investigating the following sources of energy production: hand generators, water wheels, batteries, windmills and solar cells.  I then provide students with some time to research these to determine a minimum of 5 facts about each of these methods of energy production.  Once these facts are collected, students will determine the similarities and differences between these options as well as the strenghts and limitations of each. Students use the Comparison Of Energy Options to organize their thoughts and information.


200 minutes

If you have never used a multimeter before, this Multimeter tutorial does an excellent job explaining how to use them and what all they symbols mean. This Mulltimeter Use PowerPoint is also excellent for both students and teachers who have never used one before (I like that the students can be given this and figure it out on their own, it fits my teaching style).

Hand generators, batteries and solar cells:

The following videos demonstrate how to test the amount of power produced from these three options.  This can be done by each student group or as a demonstration for the class depending on the amount of time and materials available.

Measuring Energy From Various Power Sources

Hand Generator

Wind turbines and water wheels:

These items must first be constructed.  Again, there are many ways to approach this task.  If limited in time/materials, the teacher can construct these models and have students test them as they rotate through 5 stations (one test station for each of the energy options).  However, students learn much more if they have the opportunity to design and construct their own wind and water turbine models. When I first constructed wind turbines in class, I found this Science Scope Article very helpful.  The same model can be used for the water wheel with some modifications to the blades.

There are many kits that can be purchased to assist students with creating these models; I recently acquired  K'NEX and Invicta renewable energy testing kits.  Using these kits still allows students some flexibility while providing the teacher some support if new to this type of project.  The downside is the expense, these kits can be pricey.  The following images shows what you get with each kit.


These models can also be created using "scrap" materials.  This is much cheaper and forces students to use their creativity making the design-test-tweak process take a bit longer but is much more meaningful (there is no greater feeling than seeing your own design finally work!).  The following images provide some ideas for materials to use and the video explains how you can use some basic small motors to gather data on energy produced.

Wind Turbines



How To Test Wind Turbines

Water Turbines



10 minutes

To conclude this lesson, students meet briefly to discuss their data and determine what they deem to be the best option(s) for their society.  To ensure students have the information they will need to present for the final project presentation, I ask them to record the following information:

The energy production option we will use is: ___________________________________________

The reasons we are choosing this option are: