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Power Metering Project

Department of Energy Academies Creating Teacher Scientists, Department of Energy,

This activity focuses on applying analytic tools such as pie charts and bar graphs to gain a better understanding of practical energy use issues. It also provides experience with how different types of data collected affect the outcome of statistical visualization tools.

Activity takes two 45-minute lessons. The following is required for the activity: TI 84 calculator, access to Excel, Logger Pro, TI smartview program.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 2 Performance Expectations, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices

Energy Literacy

Power is a measure of energy transfer rate.
Other materials addressing:
1.8 Power.
One way to manage energy resources is through conservation.
Other materials addressing:
6.2 Conserving energy.
Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:D) Evaluating accuracy and reliability
Other materials addressing:
D) Evaluating accuracy and reliability.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
Other materials addressing:
E) Environmental Issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
Other materials addressing:
A) Identifying and investigating issues.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Frequent check-ins while student teams are working on this project would be beneficial.

About the Science

  • A solid grounding or background in basic statistics will help learners grasp the analysis used in this activity.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - Students are in charge of both collecting and analyzing their own data. I like this -- they get a whole-picture experience, going from no data to full analysis on their own.
    - It's also nice that this is a very tangible lab in that students get to see how much power everyday electronics, present in their own lives, draw.
    - I also love how the students are in charge of coming up with their own questions, posing their own hypotheses, and then testing them. The full scientific method is employed here, which is awesome!
    - I think it would be nice for the students to develop an understanding of what their findings mean in the context of their everyday lives (and what this may mean with regards to the importance of energy efficiency).

About the Pedagogy

  • A math activity about energy - students will learn about energy usage. Requires familiarity with certain numerical analysis and data interpretation tools such as Excel that may be more appropriate for higher grade levels.
  • Students collect data they use in the activity using a powder meter. Data analysis is done with a TI-84 calculator and Excel.
  • This lesson was written for a high school AP statistics course. The statistical math skills needed to successfully complete the Power Metering activity are clearly outlined. The team-based assessment asks students to apply their skills outside of class time. There are multiple ways students can apply statistical skills learned in this activity to their own home power consumption.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The lesson provides the questions that students can investigate, and then the data collection is up to the students.
  • Formative assessments and assessment in the form of an analytical report can be added to enrich this activity but should be grounded in an understanding of statistics.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 2

HS-ESS3-2: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.

HS-ETS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ETS1.B1:When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.3:Patterns of performance of designed systems can be analyzed and interpreted to reengineer and improve the system.

HS-C1.4:Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C2.3:Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

HS-C3.5:Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C7.4:Systems can be designed for greater or lesser stability.

Science and Engineering Practices: 7

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.3:ask questions to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables

HS-P3.6:Manipulate variables and collect data about a complex model of a proposed process or system to identify failure points or improve performance relative to criteria for success or other variables.

HS-P4.6: Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.


HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

HS-P7.6:Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and/or logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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