Introductory Robotics / Pre-Engineering, Using LEGO® WeDo and Mindstorms

Engineering & Technology


You have been chosen as the top scientists in your specific areas of renewable energy sources. In an upcoming G-8 summit about global warming and renewable energy, you and your team have been invited to present your area of expertise to world leaders. You will explore different renewable energy sources and present your findings at the summit. Keep in mind that time is running out. Ice sheets are melting and Arctic mammals are going extinct. Everyone is anticipating this summit to hear your ideas, and the world is relying on you. Good luck!

The Task:

You will break up into groups of 4. You will then research a renewable energy source independently and report your findings as a group. You will choose 1 of the topics from the list below, and then present your topics in a PowerPoint presentation.

1.) Water Power
2.) Wind Power
3.) Solar Power
4.) Biofuel
5.) Geothermal Energy

Each group will be assigned a different energy source to research, each member of the group will then report back to the class about the different aspects of the topic in accordence with the list below.


The Process:

Each group will have 4 team members:

The Scientist
You love figuring out the logistics of how things work. You will be responsible for determining and reporting the process of using your type of energy.

The Mathematician
Your interests include the mathematical reasoning behind systems and programs. You are responsible for finding out how efficient your type of energy is and whether it has life application.

The Reporter
You love finding out the practicality of things. You want to know if it is worth all the effort to use this renewable energy source. You want to find current events and uses of your energy source to see how effective it really is. Find areas or countries that are already using this energy source.

The Safety Inspector
You are very cautious. You don't enter into anything without doing plenty of research. You are responsible for researching possible cons of using renewable energy and report these to the summit.


Research Example:

Researching Biomass Energy

The Scientist - Biomass is basically thought of as garbage. It is created from the dead trees, branches, yard clippings, wood chips, left over crops, and can even include left over pieces of tires and livestock manure. The process for creating biomass energy requires a lot of steps. The old scraps of waste are put into a truck and taken to a biomass power plant. From there, the waste is gathered together and broken down to small pieces, and then everything is put into a furnace. The heat from the furnace is used to boil water in a big boiler and the energy in that steam is used to turn turbines and generators. (insert picture onto slides)

The Mathematician - Biomass can be extremely efficient for today's society. The cost of using biomass energy varies depending on the size of the power plant and the method of conversion, but currently, power plants that generate electricity are spending 7 to 9 cents per kilowatt-hour. A kilowatt-hour is how much energy is being used over time. Something may use 0.24 kilowatts, which is the rate of energy being used at a moment, but that can be measured by saying it uses 240 watt-hours. The reason why biomass energy is most efficient is because it does not release harmful emissions into the environment the way fossil fuels do. Biomass energy releases small amounts of emissions that are usually offset by the CO2 that was absorbed by the biomass while it was growing. The amount of emission in the atmosphere isn't reduced, but it doesn't increase either. Scientist call that a "net gain of zero".

The Reporter - In a recent article dated March 6, 2009, the reporter talks about how President Obama is leaning more towards using renewable energy sources and located different parts in the country where certain types of energy would be more effective. He says in the Southeast part of the country, biomass energy would most likely be most effective as a source of sustainable power. This would be extremely efficient and mostly cheaper than the energy that is currently being used in these areas. The only problem that people are seeing with this is it would be slightly more expensive for people who live farther away from where the energy is being generated. Power lines would cost money to span over a vast amount of miles. However, President Obama has a plan to create a smarter power grid. With this plan, energy power plants wouldn't be located far away from the locations that use the most amounts of energy and transportation of the energy wouldn't cost as much. energy&st=cse

The Safety Inspector - The biggest problem arising with using biomass energy is what it can do to the environment before it becomes energy. The collectors who distribute to the power plants are supposed to gather waste and products that are already dead, but in some areas healthy crops and healthy trees are being destroyed as a way to get energy. By doing this, the power plants are taking crops that are intended for people to eat, therefore driving up the price of goods that are being delivered to the stores because the croppers still need to make their money. Another disadvantage is the cost of installing all new power supplies and energy plants. The economy does not have the necessary resources yet to harvest this kind of energy and putting in the new equipment would require a large budget. Also, large scale crop production would use a lot of land area and water supply.

Group 1: Water Power
The Scientist - Find out how water power works. Make sure you include the different parts of a hydroelectric plant and describe the process of water being turned into energy.

The Mathematician -Find out how much energy can be made from water. What factors of making water lower the efficiency?

The Reporter - Tell us how hydroelectric plants are being used today.

The Safety Inspector - Are hydroelectric plants everything they are cracked up to be?


Group 2: Wind Power
The Scientist - Find out how a wind turbine works. Make sure you include a diagram of the wind turbine and describe how the turbine works in your presentation. You should also describe the process of wind being turned into energy.

The Mathematician - Find out how much energy can be made from wind. Be sure to include the formula for calculating the power of wind.

The Reporter - Tell us how wind power is being used today.

The Safety Inspector - What are the disadvantages of using wind power? Is it worth using?

Group 3: Solar Power
The Scientist - Find out how solar power works and be sure to include a diagram.

The Mathematician - How efficient is it to use solar power? Be sure to include the latest multi-junction solar technology.

The Reporter - Tell us how solar power is being used today.

The Safety Inspector - Are there any disadvantages to using solar power? Is it worth using?

Group 4: Biofuels
The Scientist - Explore how biofuels are made and how they can implemented as a energy source

The Mathematician - How efficient are biofuels? Is there a better way to use/create biofuels?

The Reporter - Tell us how biofuels are being used today.

The Safety Inspector -What are the dissadvantges of using biofuels? Are biofuels really worth all the trouble?

Group 5: Geothermal Energy
The Scientist -Research the fundamentals of geothermal energy. Also include a diagram of how geothermal is extracted and used.

The Mathematician - Is geothermal energy as effcient as scientist claim it to be?

The Reporter - Tell us how geothermal energy is being used today.

The Safety Inspector -Is geothermal energy a safe energy source? Also is geothermal energy worth all the digging and expenses?

Presentation Criteria:

Criteria for Powerpoint presentation:
10-15 minute presentation
Each group member must speak about their role for at least 3-4 minutes
Be sure to practice your presentation and not exceed the time limit
Source cited page
Must include handout of specific information or important points
Presentation must include pictures

Students not presenting will:
write at least one paragraph about the other 4 topics
list at least 2 questions you have about each of the other topics


Stated Objective or PerformanceDescription of identifiable performance characteristics reflecting a beginning level of performance.Description of identifiable performance characteristics reflecting development and movement toward mastery.Description of identifiable performance characteristics reflecting mastery.Description of identifiable performance characteristics reflecting the highest level of performance.
Stated Objective or Performance    
Stated Objective or Performance    
Stated Objective or Performance    



At the end of this project you will have learned all about different renewable energy sources and their advantages and disadvantages. Now that you all are experts on the topics of renewable energy, think about which energy sources would be the most effective and which energy sources would be the most reasonable to enact in order to save our planet. Also, if these energy sources would help or hurt our planet. Was there anything you wish you could do over again about the project? And remember, we all have to do our part in keeping this planet green!

Credits & References:

Pennsylvania State Academic Standards

International Society for Technology in Education

Biomass Example Presentation Sources:


NETS-S.2STANDARD: Social, ethical, and human issuesNETS-S.2.C> Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity. NETS-S.3STANDARD: Technology productivity toolsNETS-S.3.A> Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity. NETS-S.5STANDARD: Technology research toolsNETS-S.5.A> Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources. NETS-S.6STANDARD: Technology problem-solving and decision-making toolsNETS-S.6.A> Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions. PA.SCI.3.1STANDARD: Unifying ThemesPA.SCI.3.1.10.ADiscriminate among the concepts of systems, subsystems, feedback and control in solving technological problems.PA.SCI.3.1.10.A.2>--- Describe the interrelationships among inputs, processes, outputs, feedback and control in specific systems.PA.SCI.3.1.10.A.5>--- Analyze and describe the effectiveness of systems to solve specific problems.PA.SCI.3.4STANDARD: Physical Science, Chemistry and PhysicsPA.SCI.3.4.10.BAnalyze energy sources and transfers of heat.PA.SCI.3.4.10.B.1>--- Determine the efficiency of chemical systems by applying mathematical formulas.PA.SCI.3.5STANDARD: Earth SciencesPA.SCI.3.5.12.DAnalyze the principles and history of hydrology.PA.SCI.3.5.12.D.1>--- Analyze the operation and effectiveness of a water purification and desalination system.PA.SCI.3.5.12.D.2>--- Evaluate the pros and cons of surface water appropriation for commercial and electrical use.PA.SCI.3.7STANDARD: Technological DevicesPA.SCI.3.7.10.BApply appropriate instruments and apparatus to examine a variety of objects and processes.PA.SCI.3.7.10.B.1>--- Describe and use appropriate instruments to gather and analyze data.PA.SCI.3.8STANDARD: Science, Technology and Human EndeavorsPA.SCI.3.8.12.B.4>--- apply knowledge of agricultural science to develop a solution that will improve on a human need or want.PA.SCI.3.8.12.CEvaluate the consequences and impacts of scientific and technological solutions.PA.SCI.3.8.12.C.1>--- Propose solutions to specific scientific and technological applications, identifying possible financial considerations.PA.SCI.3.8.12.C.3>--- Analyze and communicate the positive or negative impacts that a recent technological invention had on society. Evaluate and describe potential impacts from emerging technologies and the consequences of not keeping abreast of technological advancements (e.g., assessment alternatives, risks, benefits, costs, economic impacts, constraints).

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