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Archive September 2016

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Library of Congress Blog Series, Aug/Sept 2016, Physics of Fun

At the conclusion of NEED’S National Energy Conference for Educators in July, a few NEED staff and family members were treated to a meeting with Constance Carter, Head of the Science Reference Section at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students, including lesson plans, reading lists, and more. You can find these resources by visiting

Ms. Carter and her colleagues have compiled many lists of books and resources that each pertain to one topic in science, and we at NEED have decided to write a series of monthly blogs dedicated to some of these lists. Most are energy-related, but not all of them will be. We all agree that getting kids reading books about science is a great way to keep them actively engaged in thinking about science and may very well lead to our next generation of innovators and creators. We will feature a different list each month, and provide at least one brief review of one of the books on the list.
This month we are featuring the list entitled, “The Physics of Fun”. The books listed all relate to sports or sporting activities in some way, and relate those activities back to the physics that govern how those sports are played. The books cover a range of activities, from individual and team sports to indoor and outdoor activities. Even motor sports are covered! If you have a reluctant learner who seems to have sports on his or her mind all the time, one of these books might be the hook you need to get that child engaged and interested in science. One of the books, Football Physics, is reviewed below. What a great connection to the start of the football season! You can access the entire list of books on “The Physics of Fun” by navigating to
Written by Timothy Gay, Ph.D. and with a foreword by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Football Physics: The Science of the Game is a comprehensive compilation of all the strategies, positions, and fundamentals of football and the physics found within.  Dr. Gay played football at the California Institute of Technology and is now a professor of physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Written by a true football fan, Gay is equally adept at describing a critical football play as he is in discussing the classical physics behind it. He seamlessly melds two very different worlds, discussing basic physics in easy-to-understand terms and providing examples from football at every turn. Readers of this book don’t need to have any physics background at all, but it would help to have some knowledge of football in order to understand the examples given. This book can prove to be invaluable in reaching those few students whose eyes light up when discussing football statistics and who might need a little nudge in being as excited about physics. 278 pages long plus index, its Library of Congress call number is GV959.G39.

The Ultimate Experience: Opt4STEM Energy Academy

Ashayla Freeman, Opt4STEM Energy Academy participant 2016
We are pleased to have Guest Blogger Ashayla Freeman provide this blog about her experience at the Opt4Stem Energy Academy this summer. The program brought together high school students from Von Steuben High School in Chicago and gave them an energy experience they will never forget!  NEED proudly partnered with Opt4STEM to support the Energy Academy with curriculum, training, and a wind and energy efficiency session with NEED trainer and energy manager James Brown of Saratoga Springs, New York. Opt4STEM is a STEM partnership between Exelon, Von Steuben High School, and Illinois Institute of Technology to provide high school students with the foundation to succeed in STEM degrees at four-year research universities. For more information about Opt4STEM, go to

My experience with the Opt4STEM Energy Academy this summer has been absolutely phenomenal. Science has never been my favorite subject. I’ve always found it quite intimidating and was hesitant to apply when I heard about the Energy Academy, but thanks to my English teacher, Ms.Teref, being so persistent and encouraging, I decided to give it a go. The application process was very simple and straightforward with questions like, “Why do you want to join OPT4STEM?” and “Why should you be selected for the program?”.
Fast forward to the first day of the program. All of the students were put into groups and we began with a simple workshop as an icebreaker. The first activity we partook in was “Getting the Oil Out” where we worked together to connect a pipeline (straws) which we used to suck out “oil” (chocolate syrup) from a cup. The goal of this activity was to establish teamwork and give us insight into how difficult it is to extract oil from the earth. In addition to this activity, we built a generator and learned about fracking. All in one day! So you could only imagine what the other 9 days were like!

My favorite part would definitely have to be when we went out on field trips. The first field trip that comes to mind would have to be our trip to ComEd Rockford Training Center, especially meeting Socrates, a technician there. Meeting Socrates reminds me why I love the staff involved in Opt4STEM and the staff we met everywhere in general. Everyone was so friendly and easy to communicate with. You could ask them almost anything, as long as it’s appropriate of course, and they would answer to the best of their ability – which is something I loved!
We also did very exclusive things, including meeting the CEO of Exelon. So basically me, a 15-year-old girl, who is about to start her sophomore year in high school, was having lunch and chatting with the head of one of the world’s biggest energy companies. Surprisingly no one fangirled too much and we were given free rein to ask him whatever we liked. I really appreciated that the teachers didn’t dominate the conversation, you could tell everything was truly for the kids.
After experiencing all of this, I think that's what makes Opt4STEM so different from other science programs. It’s not too classroom or textbook orientated and everything is hands on.  At any moment you have freedom to ask questions and everything is translated to simple form so that you can understand. Overall, Opt4STEM was very cool; it wasn’t what I expected at all. I thought I needed all this prior knowledge and everything would be over my head, but in reality I felt like I spent two weeks hanging out with my teachers/friends and we just so happened to learn a lot about science and energy.

Ten Ways to Teach Your Kids How to Save Energy

Author: Uma Campbell

Uma Campbell is a green loving yoga instructor and freelance writer. She currently lives in Southern California where she enjoys writing about natural living, health, and home design.@Umajcampbell,

Let’s talk about kids. In particular, let’s talk about their incredible ability to learn and adapt to change. Let’s talk about the endless drive they have, to understand the world around them. They are certainly more than “empty vessels”. They can deduce, are compassionate, and creative.. They aren’t anchored to conventional wisdom because they’ve not seen enough of it to be swayed. With that in mind, let’s explore the ways in which kids can understand energy.

It is the application of science which quantifies and proves the existence of energy in all its forms. It’s also the thing which will make your endeavor fun while supporting your lessons with proof.

Here are 10 ways to teach your kids about saving energy:

1. Lights in an Empty Room

It can be a challenge to explain concepts like energy, where its existence isn’t always evident. If you have an incandescent bulb, have the student place their hands near the bulb (making sure not to touch it). With incandescent bulbs, most of the energy being radiated is heat. Although the energy wasted in an empty room is pretty self-evident, the heat may not be.

2. High-efficiency Bulbs

Compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED bulbs are much more efficient at converting electrical energy to light. Switching to high efficiency bulbs have been a popular way to begin saving energy because how easy it is. It can also be an excuse to conduct a fun demonstration.

3. Activities for Understanding Energy

Ask your student to run on a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bicycle. Keep them going until they see 50 Calories on the display. If he/she burns 5 Calories per minute, you’ll have worked 10 minutes to equal the amount of energy necessary to power a 100 Watt light bulb for roughly 30 minutes. In comparison, you could operate an equivalent CFL bulb for 2 hours!

One thousand calories (1 Calorie) equals 1.162 Watt-hours.

50 x 1.162 = 58.1 Watt-hours = 100 Watts x .581 hours
Note: The capital “C” in “Calorie” represents 1000 calories (with a small “c”).

4. Laundry

Yes, laundry. You’ve seen it before, that pile in the kids bedroom. It’s a combination of dirty clothes and freshly washed outfits which had jumped out of the dresser drawer during a kid’s search for the right shirt. How many needless loads of laundry have placed added demands on the wash machine, water usage, energy consumption, and the parents’ sanity – not to mention wear and tear on appliances? Even super efficient Energy Star appliances break down from wear and tear.

A child’s understanding of the added energy demands of their actions can lead to more than just energy savings. It’s tied to time management issues and the operation of your entire home.

5. Close the Door, Please

We know that exterior doors are a barriers which keep heat from passing from one area to another. Inevitably, doors are opened and the heat’s allowed to pass through. Kids can become a bit complacent about doors during and after periods of good weather.

Detecting heat loss can be tough without direct contact or special equipment like a FLIR camera. It’s is a great opportunity to take advantage of Youtube and other online video sources. For example, go to Youtube, cut and paste the keywords “FLIR heat loss through an open door”, and you’ll find lots of choices for demonstrating the movement of hot air.

There’s also a potential lesson on refrigerator doors too.

6. Running Water

Water is a commodity which we often take for granted. It’s abundant and rarely presents a financial burden to most families. Nevertheless, it’s vitally important to our existence and should be treated with great care. Although all energy topics touch on broader environmental concerns, the transport and purification of water should be included as part of a conversation about energy savings, because it speaks to the “bigger picture”.

7. The Garden

This can be a great activity for kids as well as a way to supplement a family’s food resources. Further, it invites a broader discussion on the environment and what’s needed to grow, pack, and transport food. Food can consume a lot of energy when not grown locally.

8. Vampire Hunting

All those devices the kids use for gaming and social media have chargers. They’re called “energy vampires” because of how they consume energy even when not in use. Help them manage the energy usage of those chargers by placing them on a common power strip. With just a little discipline, you can have all the kids connect to their chargers at night, when the power strip is switched on until morning to take advantage of off-peak rates.

9. The Television/Gaming Consoles

The TV can be absolutely silent, with everyone thinking that it’s off when it’s actually been paused. It’s very easy to have this happen, and kids should know about the energy being wasted because of it. A flat screen TV can become a giant lamp when it’s paused (and lacks a “dim” feature), using almost as much energy as a TV during normal use.

10. A Little Fun in The Car

Challenge the kids with alternate routes in the car. Track the difference in mileage and fuel consumption. Some kids respond well to a competition. Declare a winner and maybe even a small reward for their efforts.
These are just a few ways to get kids on-board.

When discussing all these topics, try to make it a fun experience, expressing enthusiasm about the virtues of saving energy. After all, it’s not just about the money. There are great lessons about environmentalism and compassion which can be built into your discussion about energy conservation. It’s also well known among child development professionals that your attitude can be mimicked or “mirrored” by children. Enthusiasm loves company!

Keep Your School Year ENERGIZED!

As school for students has started back up again, many teachers and students may find themselves beginning the countdown to bring back fun in the sun and summer freedom. We at The NEED Project want to help make your school year such a success that it seems to fly by! Since 1980, our philosophy has been about “Kids Teaching Kids” by providing teachers with the curriculum and materials that help spark student’s interest and be truly engaged in inquiry-based, hands-on, and exciting learning activities about energy, all while enhancing student leadership skills.  When surveyed at workshops and events, 95% of teachers believe that NEED materials increase student performance on state tests. Students in NEED programs showed a 41% increase in energy knowledge after using NEED curriculum. The requirements of state standards, Common Core State Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards are fully supported by NEED materials.
By visiting, you can see where our upcoming, FREE to attend, energy workshops are, all over the nation. These workshops provide teacher’s great professional development opportunities with comprehensive, objective information about the scientific concepts of energy. Energy education doesn’t have to sound intimidating or boring and our knowledgeable and passionate presenters make sure of that! 

NEED also hosts sessions at several state, regional, and national science teacher’s conventions and conferences throughout the year on various K-12 energy topics. We hand out free curriculum, infobooks, and opportunities to win science of energy kits.

Whether it’s your first year delving into an energy unit, you desire to learn more, or are looking for new ways to engage your students, The NEED Project is dedicated to helping teachers succeed in their classrooms, after-school programs, and multi-disciplinary teams.  Welcome back to school…and have a great year!