April 19, 2012

Field Trip: El Chocón Dam

One of the things I love about homeschooling is being able to ditch the workbooks, seatwork, schedules, curriculum, dry textbooks (well, actually, we don't really do these), pencils, moans and groans, and head out the door for some hands-on, real life learning.

My kids (fortunately for me) love science, so we don't have to do a lot of pre-packaged science curriculum. My boy is almost totally self-taught in the area of science, to the point where my eyes start glazing over when he launches into his mini-collegiate lectures on Basilosauraus, Indricotherium, and Ichthyosaurs. But, because he is getting older and there are other branches of science - to which I believe they should be exposed - when I found out about the dam nearby, a light went on in my head.

SpringboardIntroductiontoHydroelectricity! Yeah!


So, as soon as our car was released from Car Purgatory, we took off like a family of bats out of hell.

Off we sped to El Chocón Dam, an hour south of us out in the middle of the desert. We got the private tour of the inner workings because Omar, one of the pastors of the church we attend, works in the Control Room. It was soooooo cool. We learned a lot about hydroelectricity - very exciting!

the reservoir and dam

 The dam creates a lake 10km wide by 80 km long. The water is a beautiful, clear blue-green.

Driving down to the bottom of the dam we came across some free-roaming horses

 Below the dam, approaching the Powerhouse where the Control Center and turbines are located.

The overflow channel where water can be manually released from the resevoir in case of a power outage or rising water levels in the lake.

 Below the dam: alamos, desert, and the River Limay.

Beautiful cross-bedding in the sedimentary rocks... The kids were like, "Whaaa?"

A model of the inner mechanical workings of a hydroelectric dam.

 The turbines. This was a six turbine dam.

Control Room

Because Omar speaks Spanish, is really intelligent and uses really big words, talks really fast, and is really passionate about hydroelectricy, the kids didn't really understand a word he said. So we had to look up dams and hydroelectricity and the basics thereof after we got home later on.

We also watched this very informative, simple, and illustrative video on the workings of a hydroelectric dam....

Some interesting things we learned:
  • electricity can not be stored, as it is generated it needs to be used immediately or poof! it's gone
  • Brazil has the most dams in all of South America and sells much of its extra hydroelectric energy to neighboring countries
  • it only takes 40 employees to man this huge dam
  • El Chocon Dam also controls the secondary dam 30km downriver, all from on location
  • the dam is made of earth, not cement, therefore has a greater capacity to withstand earthquakes
  • if the dam goes, all of us downriver on the floodplain are goners (Nice, huh? I actually knew this. I quick peek at Google Earth before we moved here and my geology background could see that right away. In light of the Matthew 24:4-8, not sure I will ever invest in property here. :))

1 comment:

Christy said...

Very cool! I love those wild horses too. I'm glad to hear you are still able to do some fun homeschooling.

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