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Get Schooled: Teaching Youth About the Smart Grid in Englewood

smart grid outreach englewoodIn early December, Elevators Pete and Tim went back to school—Johnson College Prep in Englewood, to be specific. With support from the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) and the Illinois Power Agency, our Outreach Team is always looking for new opportunities to give people “power over their power” and learn about the potential of the smart grid. This time around, Pete and Tim visited Jonathan Busch’s engineering class to discuss building science and the smart grid, subjects rarely taught in high schools.

“Pete was handing out energy-saving power strips at report card pick-up day, and we just got to talking,” said Mr. Busch. “My Introduction to Engineering Design class is working on basic lights and switches, and having Elevate come in gives my students a real-world connection beyond tiny circuit boards.”

smart grid outreach englewood 2The class began with an ice-breaker activity of “climate change craps” in which the numbers on the dice corresponded with different degrees of global warming and students discussed the potential impacts. After Pete set up the enormous challenge of climate change, the class jumped right in to solutions. “We depend on the electric grid every day and it has a huge climate impact, and yet it’s the one thing humans haven’t really improved in 100 years,” said Regional Lead Field Organizer Pete DeMay.

Pete led a discussion of how the smart grid can improve our lives and the health of the planet—improved reliability, quicker response to blackouts, and more efficient transmission of energy. Students then had the opportunity to learn about and play around with energy saving technologies like smart power strips.

smart grid outreach englewood 3Construction Analyst Tim Crowder then took over the class to talk about building science. Students learned about the laws of thermodynamics, energy saving tools like LED bulbs and weather stripping, and the kinds of services Elevate offers when performing assessments and retrofits. Students got the chance to use an infrared camera to identify spots in the classroom that were not sealed properly and decreasing the efficiency of the building.

The class concluded with a student-led, thought-provoking discussion about the equitable distribution of energy efficiency and renewable energy, job creation, and data privacy. These kids seriously knew their stuff!

“We love having guest speakers like Elevate because even though we have the in-class materials and resources, speakers show the students career options and new perspectives,” said Mr. Busch.

Thanks for having us, Mr. Busch and JCP!


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