Tech Ed: Teaching Kids How Compressed Air Works And How To Repair An Air Compressor

In middle school and high school, students have the opportunity to choose some of their electives. One of those electives, "tech ed," has a long history of teaching kids how things work, how to fix things and how to build other devices and useful objects. It is, in essence, a preparatory course for engineering careers. If you are a "tech ed" teacher, consider showing and teaching your students how compressed air powers construction tools, and then show them how to fix a compressor. 

Building and Containing Pressure

With the use of some diagrams and a white board or "smart board," you can show your students the parts of a compressor. Then you can teach them how compressors fill with air, contain it and increase the pressure by pushing the air molecules into a more compact space. Because the molecules are desperate to escape and move more freely, the minute the air compressor's release valve is engaged, the compressed air shoots forth through the nearest available opening or exit. The compressed air can be used to power tools without electricity and deliver enough force to blast concrete or drive large nails through thick planks of wood.

Experimenting with Pressure Levels to Understand Compressed Air Power

Since some air compressors and pressure washers come equipped with variable pressure controls, you can also run experiments with these devices. Have your students attempt to find the necessary pressure needed to drive a three-inch flathead nail through a two-inch thick board, and then find the water pressure required to move a twenty-pound block of concrete. Before they begin their experiments, ask them to use mathematical calculations commonly used by engineers to figure out the amount of pressure that would normally be expected to execute these tasks. Then your students can alter pressure as needed to achieve results.

Repairing an Air Compressor

Once you have completed your experiments, work with your students to determine if any of the compressors are not functioning properly. (You can alter a compressor before the start of class to get this discussion started.) Then have your students try to figure out which part of the dysfunctional air compressor is not working, why that would be a problem on a construction site, and what might be done to fix the compressors. Something as simple as a new hose, a hose clamp tightening or a malfunctioning release valve can become a project and a lesson for your students on how to repair an air compressor. More advanced students can learn welding techniques for repairing leaks in the actual tank of the compressor.

If you need any air compressor parts to prepare for the lesson, contact a company like Air Chief Inc.