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TRB 3:5 - Investigation 6 - Heat from Machines

Group Size

Small Groups


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Classroom activities help students understand that heat energy can be produced by mechanical and electrical machines.


  • 4 thermometers
  • Heat from Machines worksheet (pdf)
  • Temperature Tracking worksheet (pdf)
  • classroom machines: projector, electric pencil sharpener, heat lamp, toaster, computer, manual pencil sharpener, scissors and paper, etc.

    Additional Resources

    Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books: Electricity by Steve Parker Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books: Energy by Steve Parker

Background for Teachers

Heat energy can be produced by mechanical and electrical machines. Light can also sometimes be produced. Mechanical machines are those which do not use electricity, such as machines that use fuel (cars, lawn mowers), human strength (bikes, skateboards), or flowing water (water turbine). Classroom examples of mechanical machines include using scissors, a stapler, or a pencil sharpener. To use these machines, a student would provide the energy. So to measure the temperature difference, a student could measure the temperature of his/her hand before using the machine, a measure the temperature of the hand after using the machine for a minute or two.

Electrical machines include those which use electrical power and would have a plug or use batteries. Classroom examples include an overhead projector, electric pencil sharpener, computer, heat lamp, TV, or VCR.

Intended Learning Outcomes

1. Use a Science Process and Thinking Skills
4. Communicate Effectively Using Science Language and Reasoning

Instructional Procedures

Pre-Assessment/Invitation to Learn

Review with students how mechanical and electrical machines can produce heat. Have students identify as many machines as possible in the classroom. Ask them how scientists would measure how much heat is produced. Scientists use measurements, so they would measure the temperature of the machines before it is turned on, and after it has been turned on for a while.

Instructional Procedures

  1. Divide students into four groups.
  2. Students will fill out the Heat from Machines" worksheet (pdf) by predicting which machines will produce measurable heat.
  3. Decide as a class which four machines will be tested, and assign a group to measure the temperature before and after being turned on. Decide as a class how long the temperature will be measured, and how it will be measured.
  4. Students should check thermometers before to see that they all measure the same temperatures. Then they will record the temperature of the machine before being used. (For accuracy, the experiment could be repeated several times and the results averaged).
  5. If the machine being used is a mechanical one, with the energy being provided by the student, you could measure the temperature of the student before and after using the machine.
  6. Students complete the worksheet for their machine, then write in the information from other groups. The temperatures will be drawn in and graphed on the Temperature Tracking worksheet (pdf).



  • Read and record the temperatures to the nearest ten degrees using a Fahrenheit thermometer. (Standard IV, Objective 2)
  • Collect, read, represent and interpret data using tables, charts, and graphs. Make predictions based on the data displayed. (Standard V, Objective 1)
  • Students may measure the heat difference on other machines in the school or at home. (Standard I, Objectives 3 and 5)
  • For mechanical machines being powered by the student, the temperature difference could be found using a heat sensitive liquid crystal sheet (thermal heat sensor), and watching how long it takes to see the fingerprints before using the machine and after using it. (Standard I, Objectives 3 and 5)

Homework & Family Connections

Students may measure temperatures of machines at home.

Assessment Plan

Grading student worksheet:
10 points correct, complete, detailed
8 points partially correct, complete, detailed
6 points partially correct, partially complete, lacks some detail
5-1 points incorrect or incomplete, missing data, needs help

Created: 06/23/2004
Updated: 05/23/2022