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Energy: The Carnot Engine

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Describe the Activity: 

 Student teams will research and design a Carnot Engine. Students will also write an essay about an invention from the Renaissance time period and its connection to thermodynamics. They will then write an Engineering Design Report and build a model of their design, presenting their final design and prototype. Individually, students will create a Digital Portfolio with a written reflection of the Unit 2 PBL.

  • Art I: Examine material, technologies, processes, and terminology used in visual art; Integrate visual art ideas, issues, and themes
  • Algebra I: Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest
  • Geometry: Prove theorems and theories in modeling situations
  • English I: Write explanatory texts to convey information clearly; Demonstrate command of grammar, usage, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation in writing; Present information clearly and appropriately for the task and audience
  • Physical World Concepts: Describe the relationships among temperature, heat and internal energy; Convert between temperature scales; Use the First Law of Thermodynamics
  • World History: Identify key steps in a text's description of a process; Determine the meaning of words and phrases used in a text; Write informative/explanatory texts; Draw

The culminating event for this PBL is a presentation where students will present their findings about the functionality of the Carnot Engine and also share their final engine design plan and model. The following items will be turned in as part of the presentation:

  • Carnot Engine Design Plan
  • Renaissance Invention Essay
Time Details: 

This activity takes 3 weeks with About 5 to 6 hours per week.

Cost Details: 

Students can choose to purchase materials. However, most were created with recycled materials. You will need art supplies to illustrate the 2D example of the Carnot Engine the group designed.

People Details: 

The students will work collaboratively in groups of 4.

Outcome of the Activity: 
This PBL on Energy will introduce students to the essential concepts underlying the principles of movement and conservation of energy. Along with the study of thermodynamics, students will apply logic, deductive reasoning, and algebraic problem solving to collaboratively design and build a model of a Carnot Engine. Students will also apply these principles in a writing about an invention from the Renaissance time period.
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