In many engineering and mathematics courses, units are associated with the values used for performing calculations. A unit is a quantity that is used as a standard of measurement. For example, if you were measuring a length of time, the units for the measured value could be seconds, minutes, hours, etc. This Instructable will provide a step by step process for converting a value to a different set of units.
Converting a value to a different set of units is often desirable when the current set of units does not adequately represent the data. For example, a length of time of 15 seconds could also be represented as 0.25 minutes or 0.004167 hours. The use of minutes or hours as the units for this value would be inappropriate because it is difficult to visualize the amount of time being represented. Thus, you would want to convert the value to a more appropriate set of units, in this case seconds.
- A calculator
- A pen or pencil
- A piece of paper
Very little mathematics skill is required to perform a unit conversion if a calculator is being used. Thus, this process can be completed by anybody that is capable of using a calculator. The determination of whether or not it is appropriate to convert between units requires some conceptual understanding of the process being measured.
This Instructable should only take 5-10 minutes to complete. This Instructable will detail the process for converting between different units of time. While the Instructable only explains the process for one specific type of unit, this process can be replicated for many different unit types. This Instructable covers a very basic tenet of unit conversion and may not be applicable for more complex conversions. The key point of each step is represented by a bullet point.
Step 1: Determine Desired Units
For this example, you are given a value of time that is represented in units of minutes.The quantity is currently a small decimal value and it is difficult to visualize the amount of time that is being represented. Thus, you need to convert this value to a unit that represents a smaller amount of time. Converting the value into units of seconds more adequately represents this value.
- Determine the unit that best represents the given value.
Step 2: Look Up Conversion Factors
To convert from one set of units to another, you must use a conversion factor. A conversion factor allows you to convert a quantity that is expressed in one set of units to an equivalent quantity expressed in another set of units. Conversion factors can be located in the front or back of many mathematics or engineering textbooks or they can be found online. For this example, I have provided the conversion factor for converting from minutes to seconds.
- Find a conversion factor for the units you wish to convert between.
Step 3: Set Up Your Conversion Equation
To convert from one set of units to another, you must multiply the value being converted by a fraction containing the conversion factor. The fraction should be set up so that the original set of units are cancelled out and the new units remain.
- Set up your conversion equation to cancel out the old units.
Step 4: Cancel Out the Old Units
The final value of this conversion should be expressed in units of seconds. To accomplish this, you must cancel out the old units (minutes). On your paper, cross out the old units so that only the unit of seconds remains.
- Cross out the old units.
Step 5: Perform the Calculation
Now that the old units have been cancelled out, perform the final calculation. The resulting value is your final converted value.
- Do the calculation to get the final answer!