Innovative power grid education reaches youths worldwide

Submitted by ITI press release
2010-10-03 16:50:47

Thanks to the work of the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIP) Center in Information Trust Institute (ITI), Illinois, educators around the world have acquired a dynamic new way to teach middle and high school students about power. At the National Science Teachers Association meeting in Philadelphia on March 20, TCIP education leaders Jana Sebestik and George Reese introduced TCIP's free, online educational applets to an international audience.
With the assistance of the U. Illinois' Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE), to which Sebestik and Reese also belong, TCIP has been working since 2006 to develop a series of interactive, web-based educational applets. The first and simplest applet, called "Power and Energy in the Home," shows how everyday energy use decisions in the home affect consumers' power bills. The second, "The Power Grid," offers a larger overview of how power generation and distribution work. "Power Economics and Emissions" provides a more sophisticated perspective on the power grid, demonstrating how various generation technologies produce different emissions and why economic pressures might lead a power utility company to buy power from (or sell it to) outside entities. Finally, in 2009, TCIP released "Wind and Storage," which explores the use of alternative energy sources that can compete with the cost of coal yet have low or no emissions.
The applets present students with animated simulations of power systems. Students can adjust the systems by clicking on various system elements and making choices from drop-down menus; for example, in "Power and Energy in the Home," they can turn appliances like dishwashers and hair dryers on and off to see how those changes affect power consumption and energy bills over time. The other applets allow students to make decisions based on consumer demands, transmission capabilities, and carbon dioxide emissions, among other factors.
"The energy crisis, climate change, and the need for energy independence are challenges facing everyone," explained Sebestik. To address those problems as a society, she says that we must promote "greater understanding of our current uses of energy and the systems that supply our electricity." The applets were designed to do just that, and to date have been used and distributed in a variety of contexts. Organizations ranging from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Kidwind energy education group have recognized the effectiveness of the TCIP applets and linked to them from their websites. Presentation at the NSTA conference will give the applets even greater visibility to the educational community.
"We're very pleased that NSTA selected the TCIP applets for inclusion at their National Conference on Science Education," added Sebestik. "A lot of influential educators from around the world had the opportunity to see how these applets explain complex concepts in a fun and effective way. We expect that we’ll be able to reach many more students as a result of NSTA's decision to showcase the TCIP applets."
TCIP Center:
Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE):
Power and Energy in the Home:
The Power Grid:
Power Economics and Emissions:
Wind and Storage:

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