Kinetic Energy Converting to Thermal Energy

Casey Rutherford
Type Category
Instructional Materials
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


Average Rating

3 (1 reviews)

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Most Recent Review

2 Great concept design poor video

Love the concept design. Teaching with this video would be hard. Things I would have done differently do a better job of showing what you are doing. The camera angles where way off could not see the data on the screen. Other than dropping a bowling ball could not tell from the video what was going on.


This 1 minute and 26 second video shows the phenomenon of a bowling ball being dropped onto a piece of clay and measuring the increase in temperature of the clay to demonstrate Conservation of Energy. A student drops the bowling ball onto the clay and the video displays the temperature on the screen behind the student since the clay had a temperature probe embedded in it. Recommend showing video without sound (to better prompt student to wonder about phenomenon). The instructor should describe the setup and procedure to the class. Start the video at 1:00 and run it until 1:20, and then pause it. Ask the class what they think will happen to the temperature of the clay. Then restart the video at 1:20 to see if their assessment of the situation was correct.

This could also be used as a guide for instructors if they wanted to have their students later perform this themselves using a temperature probe.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

HS-PS3-2 Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motions of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative positions of particles (objects)

Clarification Statement: Examples of phenomena at the macroscopic scale could include the conversion of kinetic energy to thermal energy, the energy stored due to position of an object above the earth, and the energy stored between two electrically-charged plates. Examples of models could include diagrams, drawings, descriptions, and computer simulations.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The phenomenon demonstrated in this resource could be used in a unit about energy and the conservation of energy as it very visually demonstrates the conversion of gravitational potential energy to kinetic energy and then to thermal energy. The teacher could pair this video with a basic lesson about energy and energy diagrams, and then have students create energy diagrams to show how the energy changes from one form to another. The instructor can return to this resource later in the unit so that the students can then explain what is happening within the clay at the atomic level to account for the increase in temperature.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
After students have watched the full video, they should make a claim, using energy concepts and the Law of Conservation of Energy, about what energy conversions are taking place. Have the students give a full explanation, making sure that they all have correctly applied the Law of Conservation of Energy. Special attention should be given to getting the students to think about, and describe, what is happening at the atomic level as the kinetic energy of the bowling ball is converted into thermal energy within the clay.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
After watching this video, students will have observed a visual representation of the Law of Conservation of Energy. The video further demonstrates that energy can be transported between systems when the bowling ball strikes the clay and transfers its kinetic energy to the clay which then heats up. This also demonstrates that energy can be transported from one place to another, since the bowling ball was not initially in contact with the clay, but after the bowling ball was dropped onto the clay, the initial energy of the ball, due to its position above the table, was then contained within the clay on the table (that thermal energy will then transfer to the surroundings). To make sure that students achieve the DCI, have them write a short response in which they state what happened to the initial energy of the ball. Leave it open ended and have the students then share their responses with each other before coming together as a whole class to discuss the situation.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Be sure to point out that the energy of the ball, due to its initial position within the earth’s gravitational field, was transported to another object and another place, the clay, which was resting on the table.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: - none -

  • Instructional Supports: - none -

  • Monitoring Student Progress: - none -

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -