Electricity

Why do we need to know this stuff?

Electricity affects your life every second. It is hard to imagine how to escape the effects of electricity in our lives. Just think about how life changes instantly during a power outage. This is especially noticeable at night or during the winter. Exploring how electricity relates to your everyday environment forms the content of this unit.

You will examine how electricity gets from its source to the wall outlets in your home. You will become familiar with the principles of electricity and how these ideas are important in your everyday life. The three big ideas addressed are:

GENERATION

In our video on generation, see how power is generated at the Bonneville Dam in east of Portland, Oregon on the Columbia river.  Generation refers to the electricity generated at a power station by electromechanical generators, primarily driven by heat engines fueled by chemical combustion or nuclear fission but also by other means such as the kinetic energy of flowing water and wind. There are many other technologies that can be and are used to generate electricity such as solar photovoltaics and geothermal power all of which put the energy of electricity at your finger tips everyday of your life.  The activities on this site demonstrate the basic mechanism used by most of these generation systems by showing you how to generate electric current.

DISTRIBUTION

Distribution is the delivery of electricity to end users, like yourself, through a network or grid of power lines. The electricity usually arrives to you after passing through substations, transformers, and meters to reduce the voltage to a level used by refrigerators, TV’s, and lights.  Look at the pictures of power polls in the activities and see if you can identify which lines are delivering power to customers.

USAGE AND SAFETY

Usage and safety describes the practices and safety measures engineers have designed based on our scientific knowledge of electricity to protect you from electrical shock or to protect the service in your community from being interrupted.  The video in this section shows a variety of the technologies used to protect electric circuits.

Where is electricity in your life?

Electricity is involved with making our modern life possible in entertainment, communication, transportation, heating, cooling, lighting, food preparation, banking and commerce. Understanding electricity will help you live more comfortably in our modern world. As you work through the material in this unit you will learn not only principles of electricity but how electricity is involved in every aspect of your life 24/7.