SEP: Energy and Power
Energy and Power is one of the publication themes of the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme. For other publication themes, visit the SEP homepage.
Understanding the energy concept is central to an understanding of science. It also happens to be a particularly difficult concept to explain. SEP has developed a series of publications that provide clear and consistent ways of talking about the storage, transfer, conservation and dissipation of energy. These include practical activities to gain hands-on experience of phenomena, animations that help to develop explanations of phenomena, and resources that relate energy to real-world applications. Looking at the flow of energy from hot to cold is a good way of introducing students to the idea that energy can be stored and can move from place to place. Hot and Cold: Exploring Temperature Changes Using Thermocolour Film has many examples of such activities.
The Energy Now multimedia package includes a sequence of interactive animations that develop consistent ways of thinking and talking about energy stores and transfers. It begins with thermal stores and energy transfers from hot to cold, before dealing with other kinds of changes.
Although considering energy qualitatively is important, a key idea is that energy is actually a quantitative concept. To give students hands-on experience of measuring energy, SEP developed an innovative energymeter, supported by the booklet Making Energy Real: Using the SEP Energymeter.
The qualitative and quantitative approaches are brought together in the booklet Energy Storage, which looks at different kinds of energy stores and how their behaviour can be explained using the energy concept. It also explores how energy transfers to and from the stores can be measured using the energymeter.
The concept of energy acquires more significance when it is used to solve problems and answer real questions, such as when studying the energy industry. Two SEP publications, Wind Power and Solar Power: Electricity from the Sun, contain practical activities and look at the economics of renewable energy resources.