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Library of Congress Blog Series Jan 2017

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting https://www.loc.gov/education/. This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Snow: Flakes and Crystals.” The list is found at https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/snowflake.html.
 
No two snowflakes are alike. We say this all the time, but is it true? Of the literally billions and billions of snowflakes on the Earth at any given time, can no two anywhere at all ever be alike? It's difficult to imagine the number of snow crystals present on Earth right now. Wilson A. Bentley, one of the first known photographers of snowflakes, was a man fascinated by snow, weather, and the water cycle. After looking at many of his photographs, you may come to the same conclusion that no two snowflakes are alike.
 
A book that will help you do just that is Snowflakes in Photographs, by W. A. Bentley. A more recent compilation of Bentley's famous snowflake photographs, the book is page after page of black and white images of snowflake crystals and some images of dew drops, frost, and other dihydrogen monoxide representations. Looking at these images may lead you to wonder about the man so devoted to snow that he was given the nickname, Snowflake Bentley.  72 pages including introduction; published by Dover Publications, ISBN-13 978-0-486-41253-5
 
A good biography of Bentley is The Snowflake Man, by Duncan C. Blanchard. It's very detailed, going into depth about his family's history and origins in New England, and includes a small set of photographs of Bentley's childhood home, some of his family members, and a few snow crystal photographs. This book is definitely an adult read, and is particularly interesting if you are like early American history or genealogy. 237 pages, published by The McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, ISBN 0-939923-71-8
 
For younger readers, a great choice would be Caldecott Medal winner, Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin with illustrations by Mary Azarian.  The book gives children highlights of Bentley's childhood and early interest in all things frozen and illustrates well the sacrifice made by Bentley's parents to buy an expensive camera and microscope to fuel Bentley's obsession. Interjected among the biographical prose are additional facts that older or more curious readers will want to know, such as an explanation of the magnification capabilities of the camera and microscope. 32 pages, published by Houghton Mifflin Company, ISBN 0-395-86162-4
 
And finally, there's a beautifully illustrated book about the object of Bentley's passion, the snowflake. The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story, by Neil Waldman, follows a fictitious droplet of water from snow crystal in the sky, through its multiple forms and reservoirs on Earth, and back to crystal in the sky. Laid out as a seasonal or calendar progression, each page represents one month in the droplet's cycle on Earth. The illustrations look and give the feeling of the Northern Hemisphere season associated with the months listed.  For example, in March, the droplet is part of a mountain stream flowing down through a crack in the Earth beneath a frozen pond. The colors are warm above, representing the warming days, and cool and blue beneath, illustrating the still-frozen ground. 32 pages, published by Millbrook Press, ISBN-13 978-0761323471.
 
Whether you want more snow, or less, whether you love it or hate it, snow is a part of our life as residents of North America. It has been present in every US state and Canadian province at one time or another and is here to stay for the time being (sorry, warm weather lovers). The list of resources published by the Library of Congress can help you and your students develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the intricacies of snowflakes.  Now, who has some hot chocolate?
 
Want to learn how to make a six-sided snowflake? Check out a step by step instruction sheet here!

How to Become a Solar Panel Installer

As companies become increasingly aware of their carbon footprint and look towards incorporating sustainability into their business practice and operations, it opens many doors into various sustainability careers. Vera Marie Reed discusses the career of a solar panel technician in her blog below. 



With the perceived vulnerability of the traditional power grid and the increasing cost of heating and cooling homes, alternative power sources are becoming more and more popular.
 
The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has, since it came in force in 2006, given the sector stability as well as growth. In fact, the industry, over the last 10 years, has achieved a compound yearly growth rate of just south of 60%. Also, consider that close to 209,000 Americans are employed in the solar sector, which more than doubles the number reported in 2010. That figure, meanwhile, is projected to double to north of 420,000 workers by 2020.
 
One of the jobs in the sector that is experiencing plenty of growth is that of solar panel installer. Read on for a look at the industry, the job duties, and the education and skill requirements.
 
Solar Industry
 
The U.S. solar market is set to grow by 119% this year, says GTM Research in its latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2015 Year in Review, published in conjunction with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Elsewhere, SEIA says that the expenses involved in installing solar has declined in excess of 70% over the last decade, which has allowed the sector to expand into further markets and to install thousands of systems across the country.
 
The SEIA adds that California has traditionally accounted for the bulk of the solar market in the U.S. -- with a market share of 44% last year -- but that other states such as New York, Massachusetts, and Texas are starting to experience more growth -- not only from residential customers, but also from commercial customers. The organization further notes that falling costs, more competition, better consumer awareness, and a wider array of financing options to help people and companies get solar panels installed are helping to fuel growth.
 
What all of this means is that there are opportunities in the solar panels market as well as in other eco-friendly niches that offer greener options.
 
Day to Day Responsibilities
 
Solar panel installers are tasked with installing panels onto the roofs of homes, condominiums, and commercial properties. These professionals might have to install either photovoltaic (PV) solar panels that turn the sun's rays into electricity or solar thermal panels that store the sun's rays so that they can use used for heating applications.
 
Problem solving skills are needed because installers must consider the best location for the panels -- which necessitates figuring out if the surface selected has, firstly, enough space for the required number of panels and, secondly, enough durability to accommodate the weight of the panels.
 
When installing PV solar panels, the installer needs to connect the panels to the right wires and then connect the wires properly to an inverter box, which will change the energy produced by the solar cells into what is called an alternating current of electricity that people can use for their power requirements. The wiring portion of the job must be completed by a licensed electrician, so installers that have such a designation will be ahead of the game.
 
Requirements
 
While a post-secondary degree and certification aren't necessarily required as far as starting a career in solar panel installation, people who want to get into the industry will increase their odds of success if they seek out relevant education and certification. JobMonkey notes that the hourly wage can be in the $15 to $20 range. However, people who take a relevant course and pursue certification can make more than this range.
 
Having a construction, electrician, or mechanics background will definitely prove useful for those desiring to get into solar panel installation. In fact, JobMonkey notes that those with construction skills, specifically in the roofing segment, will have a bit of an advantage since the job often requires installing panels on rooftops. JobMonkey adds that candidates who have an electrical work degree will also open up career advancement opportunities for themselves.
 
Even though some previous experience in construction or other trades can be beneficial, much of what the job of solar panel installer entails can be learned on the job -- and some of those skills are relatively easy to learn. For instance, those in the industry need to know how to use hand tools and power tools, have basic math skills, have some electrical knowledge, and be capable of lifting at least 30 pounds and 40 pounds -- the weight of many solar panel brands.
 


As the alternative energy industry experiences ongoing growth, there will undoubtedly be job opportunities for those prepared to take advantage of them. The position of solar panel installer is but one of the many job types available, and the demand for such services means that people considering a career as a solar power installer can potentially benefit from some job security.
 
 
Shutterstock 1 - https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-148095986/stock-photo-young-technician-checking-solar-panels-on-factory-roof.html?src=apsicQ2Mvb02ZuGKfJlolw-1-2
 
Shutterstock 2 - https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-521964769/stock-photo-solar-cell-clean-energy.html?src=apsicQ2Mvb02ZuGKfJlolw-1-20
 

"Green Innovations and Eco Friendly Businesses." Earn My Degree. N.p., 2016. Web.
Dec.2016.
"Raising standards. Promoting confidence." NABCEP | North American Board of Certified
Energy Practitioners. N.p., n.d. Web. Dec. 2016.
"Solar Industry Facts and Figures." SEIA. N.p., n.d.
"Solar Panel Installation Jobs - Pay, Job Outlook, and Solar Job Guide." JobMonkey. N.p., n.d.
Web. Dec. 2016.
"US Solar Market Set to Grow 119% in 2016, Installations to Reach 16 GW." SEIA. N.p., March
9 2016.


Vera Marie Reed is a freelance writer living in Glendale, California. This mother of two specializes in education and parenting content. When she's not delivering expert advice, you can find her reading, writing, arts, going to museums, and doing craft projects with her children.
 
Thank you Vera for contributing your article! You may also learn about other various careers in the energy industry on the NEED website at http://www.need.org/content.asp?contentid=68

Library of Congress Blog Series - Nov 2016 - Science Projects in Biology, Natural History and Agriculture

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting https://www.loc.gov/education/.
 
This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Science Projects in Biology, Natural History and Agriculture.”  The list can be found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/bio-agtb.html.
 
There are few word pairs that strike fear into the hearts of parents like the words “science fair.”  It's not that science fair projects are that difficult in and of themselves; the problem often comes in finding a project that is interesting and is within the scope and ability of the student and his family.  Nevertheless, teachers who want their students to understand how science works assign projects to kids, hoping that the next Nobel Laureate might be inspired to do great things as a result.
 
We have a great resource with some science fair project ideas ready to go. Entitled Energy Fair, the guide contains an example project, guidelines for completing a project from hypothesis to conclusion, and a set of worksheets designed to help your student choose a topic that is interesting to her. The guide ends with a page of questions about energy-related topics that might help guide your student into selecting a topic.
 
However, as shocking as it may seem, not all students are as excited as we are about energy. What can you do to help those kids find a science fair project about which they can be excited and engaged? The Library of Congress has a list of project resources related to life sciences. The list, referenced above, is a compilation of books, articles, project guides and bibliographies that you can use to help your student find a life science related topic for the science fair. There are other project lists, too, which can be found at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/tbs.html.
 
One resource listed is Everyday Science Experiments with Food, written by John Daniel Hartzog. It is a short book of ten food-related experiments, with step-by-step instructions, that kids can do on their own. The book is not a science fair project book on its own, but the experiments can be easily adapted into science fair projects by helping kids find a question related to them. For example, one experiment, Calcium Makes Strong Bones, has students soaking a chicken bone in vinegar to dissolve the calcium and leave the protein behind. The activity could be turned into a project by asking “What animal bones have the most calcium?” and then measuring the mass of various bones from foods, such as from beef, pork, chicken, and turkey, before and after soaking in vinegar.  Grow a Potato could be adapted by changing up the growing conditions, or asking how large the potato chunk must be to grow a good plant.
 
The book is one in a series called Science Surprises and is written for students in approximately grades 2-5. However, older students could find the activities fun, too. The other titles are Everyday Science Experiments in the Backyard, Everyday Science Experiments in the Car, Everyday Science Experiments in the Gym, Everyday Science Experiments in the Kitchen, and Everyday Science Experiments at the Playground.  At only twenty-four pages including index and Internet resources, Everyday Experiments with Food is a very manageable book that would make a great holiday gift or addition to a classroom library.  Library of Congress number TX355.H295

We're Talking Total Turkey

Thanksgiving triggers thoughts of tables towering with turkey and all the trimmings. The images seem to transport us to happy times, with family around, football on the TV, and the only time all year when overeating is not only tolerated, it's expected. What are your Thanksgiving holiday plans this year? Are you hosting? Is it a pitch-in style meal, or are you doing all the cooking yourself?
 
Not to add more stress to your holiday plans, but have you thought about the total cost of your holiday meal? Yes, you need to purchase that big bird and all the delicious sides that go with it. But all that food will need to be transported, stored, cooked, and then stored again – and all of that requires energy. How much does the meal cost in total, from start to end? Have you thought about it? We have, of course (you knew where this was going, didn't you?). 
 
We're happy to announce that our holiday curriculum guide, Cost of a Thanksgiving Meal, has been updated, upgraded, uploaded, and is ready for your classroom or home use. The guide now includes ways to calculate the total cost, including purchase, preparation, storage, and cleanup, of your meal, whether you cook with gas or electric. Also included is a brief discussion of the transportation energy required to get your meal from farm to table. It can be a great discussion piece in your classroom or after dinner when everyone is in a carb coma and if you mention cranberry sauce one more time you're going to have a roll thrown at you. The guide can be found here.
 
All of us at NEED hope you and your family, however large or small, have a relaxing, enjoyable, blessing-filled Thanksgiving holiday. Being able to serve all of you makes us feel very thankful, indeed.


Science Project Ideas for Energy Conservation and Recycling

by Dolly Santos
 
These days, it's important to teach our children about the best ways to conserve energy, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by introducing them to science experiments. While some of these can be used for school, they can also be done at home, meaning you can benefit from this learning experience as well.
 
There are lots of ways to teach about energy, using wind, water, solar power, and heat. Here are some great experiments to try with your child.
 

Photo via Pixabay by WDnet
 
The Solar Panel Experiment
With this one, you can track the energy output of a solar panel by leaving it in a fixed spot in the sun. By not changing the panel's position with the sun's movement in the sky, you will be looking at the effects of the sun's heat on the panel to see whether it remains constant or if it wanes. You'll need:

  • Solar Panel

  • Multi-meter to measure Milli-Amps.

  • Graph paper and pencil

Set up the solar panel on a flat surface in an area outside that gets the most sunlight during the day. Connect the ammeter and set it to read in milliamps. Without moving the panel, record the meter readings every hour from 9AM to 3PM and graph the data. 

Recycling Project
Take a look through your garbage--or better yet, examine things before you throw them away--to see if they can be reused, such as milk cartons or jugs, coffee containers, and matter that could be used for compost. Cardboard boxes can be broken down and used for project display materials; in fact, try to make the entire project out of recycled materials. Containers can be cut and painted to be used as vases, pencil cups, or kitchen containers, while perishable waste like banana peels can be thrown into compost for a garden. The best part of this experiment is that it costs very little--just enough for your supplies, such as paint, glue, glitter, and scissors--and can be done with just about any age group.
 
Cleaners
This experiment requires a dirty mirror or window, a bottle of store-bought cleaner, and a bottle of vinegar/water solution. With the store-bought cleaner, clean half of the mirror or window for one minute; let dry. Finish the surface with the vinegar solution for the same amount of time and let dry, then compare the results. Is a store-bought chemical any better than plain old vinegar and water? This experiment will show what we can do with natural products rather than relying on expensive--and potentially damaging--chemicals.
 
Pools and Water Power
Scientists have been watching certain fish and how they use changes in the water to conserve their energy while swimming. You can apply a similar principle to an experiment in a paddling pool in your own backyard, using a water hose, rocks, and a wind-up bath toy. Place the rocks in a straight line down the center of the pool with space between them and turn the hose on full blast underwater, recreating conditions similar to the spinning eddies that form in a lake or creek around stationary rocks. Wind up the toy and set it loose, recording the movements it makes as the force of the hose creates changes in the water. Move the rocks around and record any changes.
 

Dolly Santos enjoys writing about a variety of subjects based on diligent fact-checking.

 
We are always delighted when someone wants to write a blog for us that is relevant to energy education, teachers, and their students! Thank you, Dolores Santos, for preparing the above article about some science projects that can be done at home to reinforce the concepts of energy use and conservation as well as recycling.
 
We wanted to add to what she had to say by highlighting some things already in NEED curriculum units that you can do right now with what is already in your home, or with very little additional equipment needed!
 
Science Fair Fun – NEED has a host of science fair-ready experiments for your students to check out and begin very quickly.  Head to http://www.need.org/sciencefair to get started!
 
Facts of Light – In our energy efficiency and conservation curriculum guides, we provide a worksheet to guide students through calculating the entire life cycle cost of various styles of lightbulbs. Students first standardize to 25,000 hours of light, which is the life span of an average LED bulb, and then calculate the number of bulbs, their purchase price, and the electricity cost of old-style incandescent, halogen incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs for those 25,000 hours of light. Very enLIGHTening!
 
The activity is on our Monitoring and Mentoring Student Guide, pages 31-32, and can be downloaded by clicking here
 
Plug Loads – If your kids need practice using spreadsheets, this is a great activity that will help them learn to use the software, as well as teach them about how much energy common machines use. Students can read the power rating right off each of the devices, or if you have one available, can use a Kill-a-Watt meter to measure the actual consumption while the device is running. We have a spreadsheet ready to be downloaded with formulas and everything!
 
The activity includes a discussion about phantom loads, too. The curriculum unit is located here
And the spreadsheet is here
 
Museum of Solid Waste and Energy and Talking Trash – Let's face it, we live in a throw-away culture. Phone starts acting up, we replace it. Dishwasher not running right? Buy a new one. And don't even start with disposable plates, cups, flatware, … the list goes on. How much energy could we save if we really understood what is involved in taking care of all this garbage? 
 
These two curriculum units are designed to help students get a firm grasp on all the energy consumed, not to mention resources and landfill space, when we so easily throw things away without a second thought.  The activities within are a little more involved but can be a fun way for your kids to learn, and can make a useful, informative community project that can be displayed in a library, shopping center, or another public place. 
 
Museum of Solid Waste and Energy is designed for middle and high school students
Talking Trash is geared toward elementary-age kids
 
Renewable Energy Fun – Want to learn a little about renewable energy? How about building a model wind turbine with our Wind Can Do Work activity? Using paper, straws, pins, tape, and a cup, students learn that wind can truly do useful work!
Experimenting with UV beads and Nature Print paper can help young students understand how solar energy can cause things to change – and result in a great craft project. 
 
The Wind Can Do Work activity is available on page 19 of Energy from the Wind Teacher Guide and page 22 of Energy from the Wind Student Guide. You'll need both pages to complete the activity. 
You can obtain a set of solar energy consumables from our online store
 
 
References:
7 Wind Science Experiments for Kids to Learn Wind Power | iGameMom. (2016). Retrieved

November 02, 2016, from http://igamemom.com/wind-science-experiments-for-kids/

Angle of Sun on a Panel. (n.d.). Retrieved November 02, 2016, from

http://www.makeitsolar.com/science-fair-ideas/02-angle-light.htm

McElrone, A. B. (2013, January 8). Reusing Your Trash. Retrieved from

http://www.education.com/science-fair/article/reusing-your-trash/

Library of Congress Blog Series, Oct 2016, Girls & Science Education

Getting kids interested in science can be challenging. The Library of Congress has many online resources available to K-12 educators and their students including lesson plans, reading lists, and more that each relate to a specific topic in science. You can find these resources by visiting https://www.loc.gov/education/.
 
This month we are featuring the list entitled, “Girls & Science Education:  How to Engage Girls in Science”.  As our economy becomes more technology-oriented, it is increasingly important to get people of all genders, races, and backgrounds involved in STEM-related careers. Yet for some reason, by high school fewer girls than boys are interested in a career in science, engineering, or applied science career. How can we bridge this gender gap? The resources on this list, available at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/girlscience.html, provide some direction.
 
The list is not just a book list, but provides online resources for teachers, parents, researchers, and young women. The list is extensive – 8 pages long! – so we suggest you take a look for yourself to find resources that best fit your own situation.
 
The first resource we are highlighting is The Ultimate GIRLS' Guide to Science, written by Beth Caldwell Hoyt and Erica Ritter. The introduction begins with “Science is a girl thing.” Broken into chapters devoted to a specific branch of science or applied science, the book is conversational in tone and doesn't once mention being pretty, popular, or liked by peers. Parents of girls will agree this is a welcome change in the way society communicates to our daughters. Each chapter has a mini-quiz that helps students determine if the particular branch of science is suited to her interests, a description of the discipline, and profiles of women whose careers are built around that discipline. This is an excellent resource that could and probably should be present in all science classroom and school libraries, as well as a welcome addition to the home libraries of families with girls. Published by Beyond Words Publishing, 128 pages, Library of Congress call #Q130.K37
 
The second resource we want to bring to you is from the Institute of Education Sciences at the National Center for Education Research. The IES Practice Guide is entitled Encouraging Girls in Math and Science and describes research into the reasons fewer women pursue careers in math and science than men. The publication also lays out 5 recommendations that educators and parents alike can apply to encourage more girls to major in STEM-related programs after high school and beyond. We will be honest with you – the reading can be a tad dry with its cited studies, charts, graphs, and research-based data. However, we also know that you as parents and teachers care about this topic and that wading through a technical document is not going to stop you from doing what is good for your students. The guide is about 40 pages long (more if you include the pages of citations at the end), and the first ten detail studies and results of those studies. The majority of the booklet is devoted to the recommendations, and tips for implementing them. Each recommendation is also backed up with potential roadblocks to implementation and solutions to overcome them. It's definitely a worthwhile read for anyone who teaches girls and wants to encourage more of them into STEM fields. Encouraging girls in math and science. Diane F. Halpern and others, 47 pages. Library of Congress call number QA27.5.E53 The document is available in pdf format from a wide variety of sources; check with your local library or your school's media specialist if you are having trouble finding it online.

October is Energy Action Month


October is more than pumpkin spiced lattes, falling leaves, and busting out the long sleeves – it's Energy Action Month!

The NEED Project has all sorts of activities to ensure a wicked good time while learning about energy.

Sink your teeth into our Plug Load unit to teach about phantom load, otherwise known as vampire power, to explain electricity consumed by an appliance or device that is plugged into an outlet but not currently “on”.

Speaking of vampires, learn how properly sited wind turbines don't kill bats in our Energy on Stage play titled, “Harry Spotter and the Chamber of Windy Myths”, that lets students act as fun and mythical characters while conveying energy facts about wind turbines.  Harry Spotter also takes a turn at understanding CFL and LED bulbs in “Harry Spotter and the Quest for the Right Light”.

Blast classic spooky tunes like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller” as your students play games from our Energy Carnival guidebook.

Get your sweet tooth ready by playing Candy Collector, newly added to the Energy Games and Icebreakers guide that introduces students to the terms “renewable” and “nonrenewable” while providing a closer look at how these energy sources will last.

Spine-chilling weather lurks around the corner and our Building Science guide lets students investigate the science behind heat transfers into and out of a system, as well as how to conduct a home energy audit.

No bones about it, NEED has you covered when it comes to helping your little ghouls understand the importance of energy!

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 https://www.loc.gov/education/.
 


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 https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/SciRefGuides/physicsoffun.html.
 
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 opt4stem.com.
 

 
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, www.umajcampbell.wordpress.com




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!

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