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Energizing Everything    Mystery 5

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Can you build a chain reaction machine?

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Beginning Exploration (1 of 4)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 4)
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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 completing the chain-reaction machine they started building in Mystery 4. To complete this mystery, students will need the ramps and levers they built in Mystery 4.

To inspire students, we suggest you all view the short videos and still images in "Inspiration for Chain Reaction Builders" in the Extras before you watch the mystery. These will give your students ideas about what materials and objects they might bring from home to use in their machines.

Step 2: Gather supplies

Students will work in pairs to build a basic three-part chain reaction. Each group will need:

  • Scissors
  • At least four 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)
  • Dixie cup
  • Up to four jumbo paper clips about 1¾ inches long (you can use small ones, but you’ll need twice as many)
  • One of the ramps built in Mystery 4
  • One of the levers from Mystery 4 (or the ruler, marker, and rubber band used to make it)
  • 3 x 5 card
  • A few books to stack for height
  • Table or desks to work on
  • Small 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch marble
  • A marker to write with

Students can also add a variety of materials to extend their chain-reaction machines. You can ask them to bring things in, or gather some basic materials to keep in the classroom. See the list below for items we recommend having on hand. Or, for more ideas, watch "Inspiration for Chain Reaction Builders" in Extras to see some possibilities.

  • Extra printouts of the “Chain-Reaction Starter Kit” handout from Mystery 4 (in case students want to make more ramps)
  • Card stock for making custom-built ramps
  • Paper cups to serve as ramp supports
  • Books and boxes to add height
  • Dominoes or objects that will topple like dominoes (dominoes built of LEGO bricks, cassette tapes, paperback books, markers standing on end, etc.)
  • String
  • More stickers
  • Things that roll (empty cans, toy cars, rubber balls, markers lying down, toilet-paper tubes)
  • Unconventional ramps (like empty binders)

Step 3: Print out classroom materials

Each student will need:

Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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Beginning Activity: Build a Chain Reaction (Part II)
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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

This video will show you that ramps, rolling balls, and falling sticks can do some amazing tricks. Here are things to watch for and talk about.

  • Ways to start balls rolling. (Some may surprise you!)
  • Ramps that are levers. (What makes them move?)
  • Unexpected ways to add energy to a rolling ball

Does this video give you ideas for your own chain reaction?

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Inspiration for Chain Reaction Builders

Here are some images and short videos to get you thinking.

  • Dominoes: Many objects can serve as dominoes.
  • Rollers: Marbles are only one kind of roller.
  • Ramp #1: A binder makes a great ramp.
  • Ramp #2: Make custom ramps from cardstock.
  • Ramp #3: Two rulers make a ramp.
  • Ramp #4: Make marble ramps on your bulletin board.
  • Other Ideas: Doug and Pat talk through adding steps to their chain reaction machine.

What ideas do you have for using everyday objects in your chain reaction?

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Dominoes

Use LEGO bricks, cassette tapes, wooden blocks, or books.

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Rollers

Use a plastic egg, a roll of tape, a toy car, a rubber ball, or even a marker.

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Ramp #1

A binder becomes a ramp when a falling domino yanks out the support that keeps it level.

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Ramp #2

Use cardstock to make a ramp that fits your roller.

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Ramp #3

With two yardsticks, we made a ramp for a plastic egg.

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Ramp #4

With cardstock and pushpins, make a marble run on the bulletin board.

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Readings about Engineering Design

Newsela offers readings about engineering design, free with registration. Here are three great readings and links to more.

Check out more readings on defining problems, developing possible solutions, and testing and refining your design with Newsela's text sets.

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