Motivated by Their Interests

JessesshoesAbove: Angela listens to Jess’s suggestion for how to build the sole of their compression-heating shoe while Yeorin looks for a possible shoe style.

One of the fun things about giving students choice is seeing the ideas they generate out of their own experience and interests. Currently students in physical science are designing “a device which is designed to gain heat for a purpose (like cooking) or designed to lose heat for a purpose (like air conditioning).  The projects should address three methods of energy transfer: conduction, radiation and convection.

Here, three 9th graders discuss their shoe design. This is a project about “heat transfer” so these three girls came up with an idea of making a shoe that keeps your feet warm.

At this point in the discussion, Angela, Yeorin and Jess (pictured above) have decided to use compressing air as their heating method. When you walk in their invented shoes, the action of stepping on the heel will compress air in a chamber and transfer the compressed air to the forefoot. This build up of compressed air is warmer and this heat will be transferred to the bottom of your foot by conduction through a conductive material. They will line the upper shoe with a reflective material so the heat does not radiate from the foot.

The range of products can be invented or explanatory. Some inventions include:

  • cooling underwear for male athletes,
  • a suit that uses body heat to generate electricity,
  • an oven that bakes cookies on the hood of your car when you drive to work (or home).
  • a gun that shoots cooling rays (still a design in progress)
  • the “un-microwave” that uses wave energy to cool instead of heat.

Some inventions are not plausible; some are plausible just not invented. Having the opportunity to learn something they “need” to learn while doing something they want to do sure seems to be a motivating mode. It is a pleasure to see them so constructively engaged!

Boys, of course, have other interests. Joel, Sam and Daniel are designing a cooling system for Boba Fett, the bounty hunter in Star Wars (see the computer image on Joel’s computer screen in image below). Since he wears solid armor on his upper body, he will need a method for staying cool under all that hot metal. If George Lucas wants to get in touch with me I can share the boys’ design with him so Boba does not overheat in his next action-packed episode!

bobo fett

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