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Activity

Kinetic Energy at Work

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Instructions

Ready to get started with this activity? To keep track of your progress, check off the instructions for each step below as they are completed. Make sure to check the box of the last step when you’re done to receive congratulations for your completed activity!

Consider this:

The force and motion of water is called kinetic energy. Dams use this kinetic energy, along with mechanical energy, to make electrical energy. The water behind the dam in a reservoir is potential energy just waiting to flow through and do work. When the water flows across the turbine in the dam, the kinetic energy of the water gets converted into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy moves the turbine, which ultimately becomes electrical energy. To better understand, let’s engineer a water wheel and harness some kinetic energy!

  • (2) paper plates
  • (6) mini (3 oz) plastic cups
  • Wood skewer
  • Strong tape
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Using a ruler and a pencil, find the center of each paper plate.
  • Mark the center with a pencil.
  • Carefully use the wood skewer to make a small hole at the pencil mark.
  • Arrange the six plastic cups in a circle around the bottom of the plate.
  • Cups should face the outer edge of plate (and bottom of cups should face hole in center).
  • Make sure each cup is evenly spaced apart.
  • Tape each cup to the paper plate, making sure the cup is secure.
  • Repeat process of attaching cups to second plate, sandwiching the cups between the two plates.
  • Once the cups are secure give the wheel a test spin on the skewer.
  • Take the water wheel to the sink and turn the water on so it is running gently.
  • Hold one end of the skewer in each hand and place the wheel under the faucet.

The wheel should spin as the water fills the cups.

  • Adjust the flow of the water from the facet, what happens to the wheel?
  • Adjusting the flow of the water represents the seasons and the effect weather has on the rivers and dams.
  • What happens with more water?
  • What happens with a trickle of water?
  • Can you change the design to work if the water came in sideways instead of from the top?
  • Can you change the design to work with paddles instead of cups?
  • Cut the plastic cups into paddle shapes to see if this works
  • If the cups are not spaced evenly does it affect the wheel?

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