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STEM ready

Cool Your Heat

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

How does an air conditioning system work, and how are thermal energy and temperature involved? To demonstrate content mastery, students will build a cooling system with the concepts of heat and temperature—and defend the efficiency of the model they’ve built.

Unit Summary:

Students will be posed with the world problem of cooling units. Students will build models of cooling units based on the concepts of thermal energy and temperature. As extension the Upper Cumberland Electric Company (or your local power company) will test the units to see how much power is being used.

Hook Event:

Culminating Event:


Science Standards:

CHEM1.PS3: Energy 1) Contrast the concepts of temperature and heat in macroscopic and microscopic terms. Understand that thermal energy is a form of energy and temperature is a measure of average kinetic energy of a group of particles.

Math Standards:

M2.A.CED.A.1 Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems.

A1.S.ID.A.1 Represent single or multiple data sets with dot plots, histograms, stem plots (stem and leaf) and box plots.

ELA and Other Standards:

11-12.L.KL.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening; consult references for guidance; and apply an understanding of syntax to the study of complex texts

Daily Activities

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

DescriptionResources and Materials
Activity One

The Three Phases of Matter:
Students will investigate the different phases of matter (by jigsawing) and demonstrate in groups on a macroscopic scale (skit, song or comic strip) the microscopic particles in the three phases of matter (solids, liquids and gases).

Jig Saw Activity:

States of Matter:

Activity Two

Professional Visit:
Presentation by an HVAC professional on how a cooling system works.

Temperature v. Heat:
Students will investigate the difference between temperature and heat by addressing misconceptions. Students will describe the temperature of objects made of various materials (plastic, cloth, metal and wood). Students will watch the video and test objects with thermometers to re-evaluate the use of the terms of heat and temperature in statements made previously about the objects.

Pre-read the lab for Day Three

Heating and Air:

  • Jeff Smallwood—Superior Heating and Cooling
  • Josh Thorton—Thorton’s Heating and Air Conditioning
  • Heating and air companies in your area


  • Cloth
  • Metal
  • Plastic, paper
  • Thermometers

pH Video:

Activity Three

Water Heat:
Students will investigate the specific heat of water.

Heat of Water Lab Exercise:

Activity Four

Freezing Point:
Students will investigate the freezing point of water, salt water and sugar water.

Freezing Point:

Activities Five & Six

System Design:
Students will design and build a cooling system.


    • Styrofoam coolers
    • Fans
    • Duct tape
    • Ductwork
    • Cardboard boxes
    • Heavy-duty trash bags
    • Thermometers
    • Any other items students want to include
Activity Seven

Local Power Company Visit:
Representatives from Upper Cumberland Electric Corporation—or from your local power company—will speak to students about the energy use of the Upper Cumberland area (or your area). The representative will evaluate the cooling systems for electric consumption.

Cooling Competition:
Students will evaluate the cooling system on both its cooling ability as well as its energy consumption. Students will make changes to the cooling system to get the maximum cooling and minimum energy consumption and compete in a final Cooling System Team Competition.

Local Power Company Representative


Technology Integration:

Business PartnerContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information
Upper Cumberland Electric CorporationPresent real electricity concerns for Jackson County. Test the cooling units.Chris Sailing, 931-268-2123
Your Local Power CompanyPresent real electricity concerns for your specific area. Test the cooling units.TVA’s Local Power Company Partners
Thorton Heating and CoolingSupplies and professional information on cooling systemsAmanda Thornton  [email protected]
Superior Heating and CoolingSupplies and professional information on cooling systemsJeff Smallwood 931-260-1876

Capstone Presentation:

Students will present the model of the cooling system they designed and built.

Lesson Resources