7 • Paralax • Altitude and Temperature

The Relationship Between Temperature and Altitude

Note: Lesson Plan and worksheets in MS Word can be downloaded below.

Title: The Relationship Between Altitude and Temperature
Created by: Albrico Rossi, Ashford School, Ashford, CT
Grade Level: 7

Target Discipline:
Revision Date: 3/20/2008

Objective:  Students will create an instrument that will measure and record temperature at different altitudes.  They will then analyze their data to find possible correlations.

• Students will construct at least one working sensor from the Parallax kits while collaborating in a small cooperative lab groups.
• Class will to test and modify devices until they achieve at least one successful launching.
• The cooperative groups will retrieve a sensor and apply computer software to analyze the data.
• Students will share their data with other classes/schools by posting it on the existing classroom wiki.
• The cooperative groups will present data to classmates in a group symposium as a culminating activity.
• The cooperative groups will evaluate the effectiveness of their work and make recommendations for future use.

Essential Questions:
• How do microprocessor work?  How can they be used to perform simple tasks?
• What role do simple machines play in space exploration?
• What can I learn from the data collected from our sensors?
• What can I learn from remotely collected data?
• How can the inclusion of data from multiple sensors be combined to be more meaningful?

Resources Needed:
• 5 simple tool kits that include, hammer, basic screwdriver set, basic pliers set, wire cutters, multi-tester, soldering iron ($20.00 each)
• 10 Parallax applied sensor kits  ($89.00 each)
• 10 Parallax BS1 microprocessors  ($30.00 each)
• 10 Parallax board of education teaching kits  ($99.00 each)
• Access to laptop computers capable of running the compiler software provided by Parallax  (existing equipment)
• MS Excel
• Internet access 
• Access to classroom wiki
• Small expendable digital camera  ($45.00 total)
• Electronic parts such as resistors, capacitors, wire, connectors, transformers, batteries (available in kit from Parallax)  ($75.00 total)
• Basic construction materials such as plexi-glass, screws, nuts, glue, battery operated motors, rods, hoses  ($300.00 total)
• 10 Soda bottle rocket kits  ($15.00 each)
• Helium  ($200.00 total)
• Weather balloons  ($50.00 total)

Description of the Activity:
Students have been exploring the distribution of temperature in the Earth’s atmosphere.  They have been experimenting with thermometers by placing them in different locations such as a shady woodland area, the full sun, next to a building or structure, near a body of water, or directly on the ground.  They have gathered evidence of many variations and the teacher has posed the question: How does altitude affect air temperature?  Now the class has begun to design a lab experiment that will give a possible answer to this question.  

Initial:  During the first week of this experiment, the class will investigate the ability of Parallax Microprocessors to measure and record temperature in a digital memory.  They will design a circuit and simple program that will allow a temperature probe to record the ambient air temperature at intervals of 2 to 5 seconds.  Each student will begin a journal containing notes about their design and revisions that will later be used to  generate a final report.

When the probes have been tested and are working satisfactorily, each group will be given the opportunity to attach their probe to a tethered weather balloon.  It will record ambient air temperature during its assent and then be retrieved.  Multiple launches may be necessary while lab groups refine their sensors and take temperatures at the correct intervals necessary to gather the proper data.  Students will also have to devise a way to record altitude during the probes assent.   When students have their  equipment working properly, a final assent will take place when the temperature versus altitude data is collected.  Notes concerning sensor performance, revisions and data will be added to journals.

After data has been retrieved from the sensors, it will be entered into an Excel spread sheet for analysis.  The class will determine the relationship, if any, between altitude and ambient air temperature.  They will be required to use their data to support their conclusions.

Using the standard lab report rubric, prepare a report for this experiment.

Using the attached lab report rubric, each student will generate a report that presents their hypothesis, their experiment design, the collected data and synthesizes a conclusion from their findings.  It will then be presented to the class.

Prior Learning Required:
• Students will need to have basic graphing and analytical skills needed to interpret data collected by the probes.
• Knowledge of space exploration and astronomy provided in class by an existing curricular unit on space.
• Knowledge of the basic operation of a laptop
• Instruction in simple machines provided in class by an existing curricular unit on space.
• Basic working knowledge of MS Excel

Special Needs Student Adaptations:
• The nature of cooperative groups will allow the forming of flex groups within each science class to address the needs of individuals.  Students with special needs or a lack of a particular skill can be teamed up with classmates that can support each other.
• This activity can be very complex.  However, simpler tasks can be modified for students who are not as advanced.  This will allow both the advanced and remedial student to work to on different aspects of the task at the same time.  Example:  a group of advanced students can work on the design of the Parallax sensor while a group of remedial students can design an experiment that will determine how much weight the helium balloon will support.   Then the two groups can collaborate on the final design.

Teacher Notes and Reflections:
• The idea of creating devices that will collect data and store it for later retrieval and analysis is a great way to explore the realm of space probes and space technology.  While concepts used to create a deep space probe are the same, the scale of this approach is small enough to be practical for the average science classroom.
• Like many other small rural schools, the Ashford School has had a difficult time developing and maintaining a formal Technical Education program.  A lack funding and a shortage of qualified staff have made it impossible for us to achieve this goal.  Despite this, student interest in computers and electronics remains high as indicated by a recent survey done by our BOE.  This program would offer an alternative to a formal Technical Education program that would partially fill this gap with assured experiences in science class.
• Soda bottle rockets are simple pressure-powered devices that can safely launch a 2 liter plastic bottle up to 300 feet into the air.  They are easily constructed from plumbing parts and a bicycle pump.  I believe that they are powerful enough to launch a small parallax sensor.  However, if they fail, helium weather balloons can be substituted.
• Parallax has created a wide variety of microprocessor components for use in the tech. ed. classroom.  I have worked with them extensively in the past and I am very familiar with their capabilities.  I believe that a science or tech. ed. teacher with some background knowledge in electronics could handle building simple sensors.  There is local teacher training available from Parallax located in the Boston area which would supplement this.
In order to make the data collected from the probes accessible, it can be posted on the classroom wiki.  This will allow students to access a database containing the data collected from all groups.  This may also allow other schools to share data.

Framework References:State of CT Frameworks References
State of CT Science Framework for Inquiry-based learning, Expected Performances C INQ.1 through C INQ.10

Grade 7
Core Themes, Content Standards and Expected Performances
Energy Transfer and Transformations – What is the role of energy in our world?
7.1 - Energy provides the ability to do work and can exist in many forms.
Work is the process of making objects move through the application of force.
  Energy can be stored in many forms and can be transformed into the energy
  of motion.
Expected Performances
• Explain the relationship among force, distance and work, and use the relationship (W=F x D) to calculate work done in lifting heavy objects.
• Explain how simple machines, such as inclined planes, pulleys and levers, are used to create mechanical advantage.
• Describe how different types of stored (potential) energy can be used to make objects move.

Energy in the Earth’s Systems – How do external and internal sources of energy affect the Earth’s systems?

Grade 6
6.3 - Variations in the amount of the sun’s energy hitting the Earth’s surface affect daily and seasonal weather patterns.  

Expected Performances
• Local and regional weather are affected by the amount of solar energy these areas receive and by their proximity to a large body of water.
• Explain how local weather conditions are related to the temperature, pressure and water content of the atmosphere and the proximity to a large body of water.
• Explain how the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface causes winds.

Information and Technology Literacy Framework

Content Standard 1: Definitions and Identification of Information Needs 
Students will define their information needs and identify effective courses of action to conduct research and solve problems.
Frame an essential question using given information, and pose additional questions related to completion of the task
Determine an appropriate course of action for addressing the essential question, with minimal assistance

Content Standard 3: Information Processing
Students will apply information from a variety of sources and formats using evaluative criteria to interpret ,analyze, organize and synthesize both print and non-print material
Organize, analyze and synthesize information to draw meaningful conclusions and determine an appropriate format for presentation, with minimal assistance

Content Standard 4: Application 
Students will use appropriate information and technology to create written, visual, oral and multimedia products to communicate ideas, information or conclusions to others.
Create databases, spreadsheets and a variety of multimedia products to organize, ana-lyze and interpret information

Content Standard 5: Technology Use
The student will operate and use computers and other technologies as tools for productivity, problem solving and learning across the content areas.
Operate school hardware and demonstrate the ability to use the school network to access and utilize school software, independently
Use content-specific technology tools and software
Demonstrate the ability to independently use personal productivity software and multimedia to create products in a wide range of formats (newsletters, budgets, brochures, imported graphics, web pages, digital movies, etc.)
Demonstrate the use of technological resources to help plan, coordinate and complete group projects
Identify hardware and software problems that accompany everyday use and seek assistance

Content Standard 7: Assessment 
Students will assess the effectiveness of their information and technology choices for problem-solving and communication.
Assess whether the process and information gathered was relevant, complete and accurate in response to the assigned need
Assess whether their products meet established standards for process, product and presentation

Marji Roy,
Jul 27, 2009, 4:08 PM
Marji Roy,
Jul 27, 2009, 4:02 PM