STEM ready

Alternative Energy

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

Phenomena: Fukushima Diichi Nuclear Power Plant Meltdown

Japan has ceased production of energy for all 34 of its nuclear reactors since the nuclear power plant meltdown and is importing fossil fuels. Because Japan has very few natural resources and is a small country, this is not a sustainable solution. Japan is searching for a solution to help them find a clean, safe and simple alternative energy solution that will meet the demands of a growing population. Students will design a prototype vertical-axis wind turbine applying the concept of energy transformation. They will modify their design blades to convert wind power into mechanical power that produces the most rotations per minute as measured by the voltage, or enough to light an LED bulb. Students will reflect on their design, communicate scientifically and demonstrate their learning in a creative way. They will modify their design by increasing efficiency and power output, while reducing costs and risks.

Unit Summary:

As the world’s population continues to grow exponentially, increasing demands are placed on conventional fossil fuels. In this Project Based Lesson, students will assess conventional and alternative energy systems, and create and design models of wind turbines and solar cars. They will determine the output necessary to meet regional energy needs in the 21st century in a sustainable manner. Students will compare and contrast TVA with Japan and propose a solution to Japan’s need for an alternative energy resource.

Hook Event:

Culminating Event:


Science Standards:

PSCI.PS3: Energy
3) Design, build and refine a device within design constraints that has a series of simple machines to transfer energy and/or do mechanical work.
14) Develop models to illustrate the changes in the composition of the nucleus of the atom and the energy released during the processes of fission, fusion and radioactive decay.
15) Communicate scientific and technical information about nuclear energy and radioactive isotopes with respect to their impact on society.

Math Standards:

ELA and Other Standards:

TN.51: Describe how the Great Depression and New Deal programs impacted Tennesseans, including the significance of: The Agricultural Adjustment Act, Civilian Conservation Corps, Tennessee Valley Authority and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

EVSC.ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
11. Define problems and suggest solutions associated with using, conserving and recycling energy and mineral resources taking into account economic, social and environmental cost and benefits.
12. Ask questions about technology needed to develop alternative energy sources and obtain information from various sources to answer those questions.
EVSC.ETS2: Links among engineering, technology, science and society.
1) Engage in argument from evidence on the role engineering and technology play in a sustainable human society.

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

 ActivitiesResources and Materials
Activity One

Solar Energy:
Read about renewable energy in the Tennessee Valley

Activity 1: Create a Solar Oven

Activity 2: Create a Solar Car

Renewable Energy at TVA:

Solar Oven:

Solar Bag:

Activity Two

Hydroelectric Energy

Activity 1: Picture Analysis of a Flood Situation

Activity 2: Build a Water Wheel

Activity 3: Play Build a Dam Using a Computer Application

Hydroelectric Energy at TVA:

Build a Dam Website:

Activity Three

Wind Energy:
Read about renewable energy in the Tennessee Valley, specifically Wind Energy 

Activity: Design and Construct a Wind Turbine

TVA Renewables Website:

Activity Four

Nuclear Energy:
• Research the pros and cons of nuclear energy
• Debate the pros and cons of using nuclear energy

Nuclear Power Website:


Activity Five

Before Electricity:
Research the Tennessee Valley before electricity was introduced and the changes that occurred after electricity came to the Tennessee Valley

Electricity and Careers:
Research career opportunities for working with energy

Out of the Darkness:

Energy Careers Website:


Culminating Event

Propose a Solution to Japan’s Need for a Clean, Safe, Efficient Energy Source.


Technology Integration:

Business PartnerContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information
Local Power CompanyFunds to purchase alternative energy STEM kits
Carolina BiologicalSTEM kits for alternative energy

TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)Online resources related to energy


Currents of ChangeOnline resources to help teach about social and economic development in the Tennessee Valley

Flinn Scientific

Activities found online and in A Demo a Day activities books–physical-science/student-lab-activities/

Capstone Presentation:

Students will use a Google Slides presentation to present an effective proposal for the change to alternative energies by showing the advantages and the economic impact to Japan. Students will show a computational analysis of the economic impact of the need for alternative energy. Students will compare the Tennessee Valley’s usage to that of Japan and propose the best energy solution based on Japan’s needs.

 Lesson Resources