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Energizing Everything    Mystery 4

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Could you knock down a building using only dominoes?

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Beginning Exploration (1 of 15)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 15)

DISCUSS:

When you set up a domino, you’re putting part of it up high. Can you think of any other situation where putting something ‘up high’ causes something special to happen?

Hint...

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 15)
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Beginning Exploration (4 of 15)

DISCUSS (1 of 2):

Can a domino knock down one that’s just slightly bigger than itself?

Try doing this yourself if you can. You can use books if you don’t have dominoes. Or you can go to the next slide to see a video of us doing it.

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Beginning Exploration (5 of 15)

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED:

It worked! A domino has just enough energy to knock down a domino that’s slightly bigger than itself. Now that you know this, go to the next slide.

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Beginning Exploration (6 of 15)

DISCUSS (2 of 2):

CHALLENGE: Do you think there could be a way to knock down something REALLY big, like a domino as tall as a building, using only smaller dominoes?

Draw a picture if you can think of an idea.

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Beginning Exploration (7 of 15)
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Beginning Exploration (8 of 15)

DISCUSS:

In terms of energy, why is it possible to use something the size of a brick to knock down something the size of a small house?

Can you explain this? Make a drawing if it’s helpful.

Think about: Where is there stored energy? Where does the stored energy come from?

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Beginning Exploration (9 of 15)
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Beginning Exploration (10 of 15)

DISCUSS:

Why do you think scientists call falling dominoes a “chain reaction”?

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Beginning Exploration (11 of 15)
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Beginning Activity Prep
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Activity Prep

Step 1: Plan ahead

In this mystery, students learn about storing, releasing, and transferring energy by making and experimenting with a “Chain-Reaction Starter Kit.” This kit includes a lever and a ramp, which serve as the first two steps of a chain-reaction machine.

We strongly recommend pairing this mystery with Mystery 5, “Can you build a chain reaction machine?” If you plan to do Mystery 5, don’t throw away the ramps that your students build in Mystery 4. In Mystery 5, they will use these ramps when creating their very own chain reaction machine.

Step 2: Gather supplies

Each student will need:

  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Three stickers or strips of masking tape (Note: We use stickers like these because they substitute well for strips of tape and are easier to hand out in a large class)
  • Cup no more than 4 inches high (8- or 9-ounce cups are usually the right height)
  • Rubber band
  • Thick marker at least 1/2-inch in diameter (it will serve as the fulcrum of a lever)
  • Dixie cup
  • Paper clip
  • Small 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch marble (Here are the ones that we used.)

Step 3: Print out classroom materials

Each student will need:

Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part I)
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Beginning Exploration (12 of 15)
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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity and exploration you just completed.
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Watch and Discuss

La Macchina Botanica (The Botanical Machine) starts when a ball rolls down a ramp and ends by watering a plant. Watch the video for fun. Then watch it again, looking for places that energy is stored. Can you identify where energy is stored and how energy is transferred from one object to another.

Some questions to talk about:

  • What makes a pendulum swing?
  • Can you find any levers that aren’t horizontal?
  • Does this give you any ideas for a chain reaction you could make on a bulletin board?
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Ideas from Experts

Looking at the chain reactions that other people have built will give you ideas for your own chain reaction. There are many chain reactions online. Here are some of our favorites.

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Activity: Herringbone Chains

If you don’t have dominoes but you want to make a long contraption that will fall down in an interesting way, you’re in luck. All you need to make a herringbone chain is popsicle or craft sticks and paper cups.

This 7-minute video from Kinetic King Tim Fort tells you everything you need to know.

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