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Green Transportation: The Hybrid School Bus

Apr 16, 2012   //   By Shauna Hallmark, Rema Nilakanta, Shashi Nambisan, Lindsay Woodward   //   Mathematics, Webquest  //  No comments

Grade Level: 9-12. Subject: Mathematics. Viewed 4359 times.

1. Introduction- The Hybrid School Bus

How good is green transportation, really?hybrid bus image2.png

Welcome! You are about to participate in an online investigation that asks you the question, "How 'good' is green transportation, really?" You will answer this question with the help of actual data from a research project at Iowa State University on hybrid school buses. A featured interview on this project is also available as a podcast on Iowa Public Radio. Additional resources are available in the Resources section.

For the purpose of this webquest, we will use the following definitions:

Green Transportation: Transportation that has a low impact on the environment.

"Good" Transportation: The positive quality of green transportation, which involves the terms "fuel cost" and "fuel economy"(also called "fuel efficiency"). You will get a chance to understand these terms more thoroughly and formulate your own definition of "Good" Transportation.


2. Task- What should we do?

Task (Download task questions)

You will create a narrative, which addresses the following questions:

  1. How do hybrid vehicles work?
  2. What are fuel cost and fuel economy?
  3. Solve problems on fuel cost and fuel economy to understand these concepts better.
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid school buses?
  5. If your school had hybrid school buses, would you ride it or take the car to school and back? Why? What are the implications for the decision you take?
  6. How "good" is green transportation really?

You may choose to represent this information in a format that suits your group.  You will be evaluated on the knowledge you gain and the creative thinking displayed in your report.

For more information about organizing your investigation, please refer to the Process section below.  You have access to several online resources at each step to help you with this investigation.  The questions are also available here or can be downloaded from above.

Groups and Responsibilities

You will work in groups. Each group will consist of 3-5 people.  Each group member will be responsible for:

  • becoming familiar with green transportation -- especially with hybrid vehicles.
  • solving problems on fuel cost and fuel economy to better understand if hybrid vehicles really have an advantage over traditional vehicles.
  • drawing conclusions on the effectiveness of green transportation based on your findings.
  • Researching and compiling resources on the web to help you in this investigation. You have access to several online resources at each step, but feel free to bring your own resources to your group. If your group finds them useful and valuable, they'll be added to the webquest resource list. Make sure that these resources are available on the web and easily accessible to all.

3. Process- How should we conduct our investigation?

Part 1: Background

The first part of the webquest involves developing an understanding of hybrid vehicles, hybrid school buses, and concepts involved in thinking about hybrids such as fuel cost and fuel efficiency.

What do we focus on?
You should investigate questions #1 and #2 as part of this section.  Remember to think broadly about these topics. This includes finding information about hybrid passenger vehicles, hybrid school buses, and even what fuel costs in other countries might be.

What resources do we use?
In addition to the resources you may find on your own, the Background and Resources sections will be a good place to start.

Part 2: Problems

This section focuses on solving problems using actual data from a hybrid school bus research project at Iowa State University. These problems are designed to help you think about the overall question, How "good" is green transportation, really?

What do we focus on?
You should develop answers for question #3 "Solve problems on fuel cost and fuel economy" as part of this section.

What resources do we use?
The problems can be found in the Problems section of the webquest.

Part 3: Narrative Synthesis

This section will ask you to synthesize the information you have gained through completion of the webquest. Your narrative should include your responses to each of the questions, as well as the problems you solved in Part 2.

What do we focus on?
Your response should try to represent all of your new insights, and these will be centered around the answers to questions #4, #5, and #6.  Remember, the overall question is: How "good" is green transportation, really? So spend some time discussing it!

What resources do we use?
Use your own creativity! Some sections will be discussed through paragraph form, but you may want to create a drawing or graph for some of the other information. As long as your group demonstrates thoughtful consideration of each of the questions, which is backed up by your research, you will be successful.

4. Background- The Facts about Hybrids

Hybrid technology is any form of technology that utilizes two or more power sources. Hybrid vehicles generally use traditional internal combustion engines and an electric engine. Read the following article and visit the links on the Resources section to find out more about hybrid technology and hybrid vehicles. Keep the guiding questions in mind as you conduct your investigation.

A good place to start would be Chapter 5 of the "Car Talk" guys' video below. Click Car of the Future if you want to watch the whole video.

5. Problems- Figuring it Out!


The problems in this webquest are based on data from a study conducted at Iowa State University's Institute for Transportation. In 2009 and 2010, researchers evaluated the operations of two types of school buses (traditional and hybrid) over several months. Traditional school buses run on diesel and hybrid buses use both diesel and a battery. The researchers recorded the number of miles traveled on specific amounts of fuel for traditional and hybrid school buses.

Download Problems

Solving these problems will require use of the following:

  • Table 1 - A record of researcher's observations on miles traveled
  • A graph (image or table) illustrating the data.
  • A list of MPG for common car models. If your car is not listed on the site, directions for calculating MPG can be found here.  

6. Resources- A Good Place to Start

7. Evaluation- Doing Your Best Work

The rubric will be used to evaluate your work.  You can use this to guide your work and make sure you are doing your best!

Rubric adapted from template designed by Bernie Dodge, PhD.


8. Teacher's Notes

GRADE LEVEL: 9-12.  CONTENT AREA: Algebra and Geometry

The module is designed as a webquest on alternative energy (renewable, non-fossil fuel) with respect to green transportation. The term œgreen transportation is broadly defined as transportation that is non-polluting and runs on alternative energy. This webquest deals with two concepts of green transportation: 1) fuel economy and 2) fuel cost.

Enhancement Modifications: Online resources and math problems help to explain the above concepts more deeply. However, student learning of these concepts can be extended and enhanced by involving other content areas as noted in the Enhanced Modifications document.

Pedagogy: We envision the webquest activity to be collaborative and democratic with students and teachers working together in groups, voicing opinions, defending their positions through dialogue, and making decisions collaboratively. Students should be encouraged to contribute new knowledge to the group; this could be in the form of new readings, links, and other resources. These contributions should be vetted by the group and incorporated into the webquest if found useful and due recognition should be given to the student contributor.

This webquest allows great flexibility.

  • The scope of the webquest can be broad or narrow. It can be implemented in its entirety over the whole semester. Such an implementation would give rise to team-teaching opportunities, examples of which can be found in the Enhancement Modifications. Or, the implementation can take place within a couple of class periods by focusing on individual content areas alone.
  • The webquest can be carried out as a regular classroom assignment or entirely online. If done online, it would require an online discussion forum in addition to the webquest site to help students work together collaboratively.
  • The resources listed will enable students to not only find specfic information, but also gain a more complete understanding of the topic. Although answers to the questions can be found using the resources, students will need to synthesize information from multiple sites in order to complete the project.
  • Last but not least, feel free to refine this webquest. It is to be used and made better. If you would like us to publish it, please email it to us. We will gladly publish it and acknowledge your contribution.

9. Careers related to Hybrid School Bus

There are many careers related to the hybrid school bus. Who drives the buses? Who transports the fuel to the bus warehouse? Who is conducting the research? Below are some links to information about different transportation careers on Go! website.


Civil Engineering: Civil engineering is a broad field and includes transportation as one of its specializations

Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines.

Truck Driver: Truck drivers transport everything from automobiles to livestock to paper towels efficiently and quickly.

Transport Planner: Transport planners design routes to make sure people get to where they need to go on time.


10. Contributions from Users (teachers)

Download this webquest here

Viewed 4359 times.

Added December 19, 2011. Grade Level: 9-12. Subject: Mathematics.

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