Quantifying the Energy Associated with Everyday Things and Events

Quantifying the Energy Associated with Everyday Things and Events


Daniel D. Frey
Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Systems and
Co-Director of the Singapore-MIT Design Center
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139 USA

Lesson Feedback


This lesson is about energy and how it manifests itself in every day things and events. In particular, the video focuses on quantification or estimation of energy. The main learning objectives are to: gain familiarity with units of measure such as Joules and calories; to appreciate the relationships among forces, distances, and energy; and to have a familiarity with various forms of energy including mechanical, kinetic, potential, and chemical. There are no formal prerequisites for this session. It would be helpful for the students to have taken a first course in physics and therefore an introduction to forces, masses, and gravity. The lesson was designed to take one hour but a teacher could easily use two hours if the students attempt the most challenging parts of the video, including estimating the energy in a 2 liter soda bottle pumped up to 60 psi. No materials and supplies are needed to undertake the lesson, but some props might help to illustrate selected concepts. The activities in the breaks are a mix of discussion (e.g., seeking to develop additional examples), brainstorming (e.g., what experiments would allow us to determine the forces on a scooter at 5 meters per second), and calculation (e.g. which has more energy, a goose at 1000 meters above the ground or a suspension spring compressed by 2cm).

View Energy in a Spring Animation for this video lesson.

Instructor Biography

Dr. Frey’s research concerns robust design of engineering systems. Robust design is a set of engineering practices whose aim is to ensure that engineering systems function despite variations due to manufacture, wear, deterioration, and environmental conditions. Professor Frey played a central role in developing the design challenges for the award winning television series, Design Squad. He is the Co-Principal Investigator of MIT BLOSSOMS. Click here to read full bio.

Additional Online Resources

This site is sponsored by the Physics Classroom: Multi Media Studio, and presents an animation and other valuable resources on Work and Energy.

This is a 6-minute video clip on Conservation of Mechanical Energy taken from Walter Lewin’s lecture, Physics I: Classical Mechanics.

This site provides three physics demonstrations from Walter Lewin’s lecture, Physics I: Classical Mechanics.

This site provides a 7-minute video clip on Work and Kinetic Energy from Walter Lewin’s lecture, Physics I: Classical Mechanics.