Energy chain reaction | BCHydro Power Smart for Schools

Energy chain reaction

Map out the energy transformations of a crazy chain-reaction machine.

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20 mins


Watch a fun and creative Rube Goldberg machine in action and create a visual map of the transformations to show the flow of energy.

Joseph's Machines


What you'll need

  • Sticky notes

  1. Watch "The Page Turner" video.
  2. As a class, list examples of the forms of energy and energy transformations in the video.
  3. In small groups, write down the energy transformations on sticky notes.
    • Each sticky note should identify the energy input, the part of the machine, and the energy output.
    • Show the video again, pausing to give everyone time to write down their ideas.
  4. Have each group put their sticky notes in the order the energy transformations happened, then work together as a class to create a visual map of the video on a wall or board.
  5. Watch the video again to re-arrange sticky notes as needed and review the transformations as a class.

Modify or extend this activity

Curriculum Fit

Grade 4 Science 


  • Energy has various forms
  • Devices that transform energy

Curricular competencies

Applying and innovating

  • Co-operatively design projects
  • Transfer and apply learning to new situations


  • Represent and communicate ideas and findings in a variety of ways, such as diagrams and simple reports, using digital technologies as appropriate

Teaching Notes

Rube Goldberg

Joseph’s Machines are examples of chain-reaction Rube Goldberg machines. Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an American cartoonist, inventor and engineer who drew complex machines that were used to complete simple tasks. The machines include different forms of energy and energy transformations. There are many online examples of Rube Goldberg machines.

Forms of energy

Energy is all around us. The 10 forms of energy are listed below:

  1. Electrical energy is produced by the flow of an electric charge. We see or hear the result of this energy as something that turns on, lights up or gets warmer.
  2. Light energy travels in waves and is visible to us. Light energy is produced by sources such as the sun, fire or light bulbs.
  3. Sound energy is produced by vibrating objects and travels as sound waves. We hear sound energy in music, birds singing or a fireworks display. 
  4. Thermal (heat) energy is produced by a number of sources such as the sun, a campfire and the oven. We feel this energy as warmth.
  5. Nuclear energy is stored in the nucleus of an atom and can be released when a heavy nucleus is split into two lighter nuclei (fission) or when two light nuclei join together into one bigger nucleus (fusion). The sun generates its energy through nuclear fusion. This energy can also be released to generate electricity.
  6. Elastic energy is stored in objects that can be stretched or compressed. We feel the tension when things bounce or are stretched.
  7. Chemical energy is stored in the bonds of molecules. Chemical energy can be found in food, a battery, gasoline and wood. When the energy is released it transforms into another form of energy. The chemical energy in a battery can be transformed into light energy in a flashlight. 
  8. Magnetic energy is stored within a magnetic field and causes metals to attract or repel each other.
  9. Kinetic energy is the energy of motion. We can see this energy as things move and change position such as a skateboarder, a skier going downhill or a person walking.
  10. Gravitational energy is stored in an object due to its height and is caused by the pull of gravity. We see the result of this energy when something falls or feel it when we are jumping off a diving board.

Energy inputs and outputs

The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed but can be changed. When something happens, energy is transformed from one form to another. Energy input is the energy that goes into an object or system and the energy output is the energy that comes out.


  • Assess students during group work for their ability to work together cooperatively.
  • Assess each group’s understanding of energy transformations as they write and order their sticky notes.

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