Have you ever heard the phrase, “Light carries information?” Think about a street signal light. What does the green light mean for a driver? A green light tells the driver that he or she can drive through an intersection. It implies that drivers at the adjacent lights are stopped and waiting for their lights to turn green. In other words, light can carry information about certain conditions in the world around us. Warning lights come in a variety of colors and types depending on the intended purpose and where it is used. In this unit, students learn about the use of warning lights in the U.S. and in other countries. They build simple models of the electromagnetic spectrum to understand how everyday objects emit different wavelengths of light. Students investigate the relative transmission of light through paper coated with various amounts of fat. Students explore the reflective properties of materials in a laser targeting activity. The unit culminates in a design challenge where students use their knowledge of the EM spectrum, reflection, and transmission to design an adjustable early warning device that transmits light across a distance. Students develop a supported argument and presentation for how their warning light can be used in a specific country.
- Lesson One: Students build empathy by researching warning light colors for the U.S. and 3-4 other countries
- Lesson Two: Students build and use EM spectrum models to learn the types of devices that emit light of various wavelengths and frequencies
- Lesson Three: Students conduct an investigation on a variety of samples to determine which one has the highest amount of fat based on the relative amount of light transmitted through the samples
- Lesson Four: Students build a hinge-mirror kaleidoscope and investigate the reflective properties of materials to strike a target with a laser beam
- Lesson Five: Students engage in a design challenge to build a light-based early warning system
Lesson One focuses on the use of color to convey meaning. Students learn the significance of different colors (frequencies) of light used in warning lights. Students develop and use models in Lessons 2-3 to investigate different scientific relationships (frequency and color, transmission of light through materials, and the ability of materials to reflect light). Students literally get multiple perspectives on objects in Lesson 4 by creating kaleidoscopic effects using hinged mirrors to form angles through which to reflect light in different directions (MS-PS4-2). Students bring the learning together in an engineering design challenge that develops a solution with real applications.