Over the Easter holidays we were showing some of our latest work at the Edinburgh Science Festival. Based in the Learning Centre at the National Museum, we had a great time showing our latest prototypes, and well as having some activities for our visitors to do. Our exhibit was made up of two main parts, both aimed at children aged around 5 years old, though we had visits from kids aged 2 -70. But, the first thing they had to do when they arrived was get their Energy Auditor sticker.
The first activity was an interactive one where Energy Auditors could make decisions about how electricity is used in virtual classrooms.
The Simulator (Image above, but which you can also see at: http://www.learningenergy.eca.ed.ac.uk/) shows a photo of a classroom, along with a graph of real electricity usage data from one day in that school. When the Energy Auditors sat down at the computer they could select different classrooms (and subjects) from the square images on the left of the screen. Once a classroom was chosen, they could turn off various appliances such as lights, computers and projectors, by clicking on the round logos below the images. When you do this, the computer calculates an estimate of how much electricity the school might be using, and draws a new line on the graph. We asked children to imagine the kinds of activities they might be doing in these rooms, such a reading a text book, watching educational videos, or having a discussion with the teacher, and to turn the various appliances on and off as necessary. The aim is to keep the yellow line below the black line, while still using all the appliances that you might need for your lessons.
As our Energy Auditors turned these appliance on and off, the small electricity meters mounted above each computer would speed up and slow down, spinning at varying speeds to show the amount of electricity in use.
Once happy with their choices Energy Auditors could enter their name and save their session. Their total electricity use from all the rooms would then contribute to the total electricity use from all three computers, creating an estimate for the total consumption of our virtual school. The big clock at the top of the display showed this total, again by spinning at varying speeds to show the total amount of electricity being used.
The second activity was a paper based activity where visitors could draw or write their thoughts about energy in response to three prompts; “Energy Looks Like This…”, “At School We Use It to…”, and “I Would Like to Save Electricity By…”.
Finishing these sentences by drawing or writing, Energy Auditors gave a great range of responses that show the diversity of their understanding of and relationship to energy and electricity.
After they had finished, their cards were posted up the display boards to create a rich and diverse display at one side of the exhibition.