Saturday, August 30, 2008

Science Saturday: New York State

I had a little trouble coming up with good science activities that centered on New York and were age-appropriate. One area that I did come up with is hydroelectricity, such as that created by Niagara Falls. A great subject to research, especially since it was one of the first forms of power widely used, as in saw mills, in the US. The concepts though are a bit advanced for most elementary-aged children. Here is what I have discovered about hydroelectricity that is basic enough for their level:

-In an age where we are desperately seeking renewable energy sources, hydroelectricity is the conversion of the energy in water to usable energy for consumption. Currently, hydroelectricity provides 19% of the world's electricity and is the most used of the renewable resources (wind, solar, etc) for providing electricity.

-Hydroelectricity produces no waste (pollution) and no carbon dioxide, a dangerous greenhouse gas.

-Provides a steady flow of electricity. Where wind power relies on the ever changing wind speed and solar power relies on the amount of sunlight, hydroelectric power does not change.

-Niagara Falls is one of the greatest producers of hydroelectric power in the world. There are numerous plants on both sides (US and Canadian) of the Falls that convert the hydropower into electricity. On the American side, just two of the plants, the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant and the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant, produce 2.4 million kilowatts of electricity, enough to light 24 million, hundred watt light bulbs. Below is a photo of the Niagara Power Project which includes both the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant and the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant.

-For an activity, you could get a waterwheel, like the one here (shown with sand in it):

Pouring water into the top of the wheel causes the wheel to turn. This illustrates how running water can create power.

As I said earlier, this is a tough topic for the younger kids, but is still something they can learn from. Older kids may enjoy further research on hydroelctric power and/or other forms of power using renewable resources, like solar power or wind farms.

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