Define and Inquire


Follow a design process to conceptualize and engineer a device that demonstrates your understanding of energy transfer.

Design, build and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another format of energy.

  • Show energy transfer
  • Respond to a clear purpose and user
  • Be original, durable, and safe
  • Consider the environment
  • Function
  • Look good


Quick brainstorming:




  • First steam engine

Energy transfer: Heat -> Gravity potential -> Kinetic


The first steam-powered device was a water pump which Newcomen devised. By applying the principle that the volume of water increases hugely when it becomes steam, Newcomen’s device repeats heating water up and cooling down so that the piston would move due to its volume change. But due to its poor efficiency, it was not used right after it appeared in the world. It was developed in 1698 by Thomas Savery. It used condensing steam to create a vacuum that raised water from below and then used steam pressure to raise it higher. Though Newcomen’s first steam engine was not appropriate to use in real life, it is an excellent example of using energy transfer and pressure.


-Clear purpose to teach users about how the first steam engine works.

-Effectively demonstrates the process of energy transfer.

-Looks professional



-Cannot be sure whether it is safe or not.

-When applying this idea, there is a high chance of failure due to its complexity and size.


  • Solar Panel Light Bulb

Energy transfer: Solar Energy -> Electric energy -> Light energy


Solar panel light bulb mainly consists of three components: light bulb, solar panel, and wires. The solar panel converts solar energy to electric energy using the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect essentially describes that sunlight produces electrons when it hits an object. Applying this principle, the solar panels can convert solar energy to electric energy. When the electric power is created, it flows through the wire and lights up the light bulb.


A solar panel is the upmost frequently seen renewable energy. Whereas other types of renewable energy require complicated technologies or massive-size producing facilities, solar power is convenient and straightforward to use on various occasions.



-Responds to how energy transfer happens.

-Considers environment, additional knowledge for users about renewable energy.

-Provides light to users.



-Too simple; not challenging.

-Cannot develop innovative and fascinating products when applying solar panels.



  • Potato Clock

Energy transfer: Chemical potential energy -> Electric energy -> Light energy

For the general name of this device, a fruit battery would be more appropriate. This device’s most significantly used principle is the reduction-oxidation reaction called a redox reaction. Each copper and zinc strip is poked in the potatoes and creates a current flow that allows using chemical potential energy inside the potato. This happens as copper has a property that it prefers to lose its electrons, and zinc has the property to gain electrons flowing freely. The current flows and electricity are produced since potato, copper, and zinc strip are connected with wires.



-Clearly shows energy transfer

-Uses renewable energy (eco-friendly)

-Can be applied to various devices by changing electricity usage from the clock to other products.



-Needs some rarely used materials such as zinc and copper strips.

-Cannot be sure whether the power from the fruit battery will run other devices that require higher voltage.



DI_G9 Engineering Project

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