Concord Consortium announces energy transfer, buildings, and infrared curricula

Submitted by Charles Xie
2013-06-18 17:09:59

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Concord Consortium's Engineering Energy Efficiency (EEE) project provides free educational resources for teaching and learning STEM concepts related to energy.

The EEE project has developed two innovative free software tools: Energy2D and Energy3D. Based on computational physics research, Energy2D is an interactive, visual simulation program that models all three mechanisms of heat transfer—conduction, convection, and radiation. Students can use it as an inquiry tool to explore heat- and mass-flows in two-dimensional structures under different environmental conditions such as sunlight and wind. Physical science, Earth science, and engineering teachers from middle schools to colleges may find Energy2D a useful tool in their classes to teach complicated science and engineering concepts without resorting to complex mathematics.

Energy3D is a computer-aided design and fabrication tool specifically for designing and making model buildings. Like Google’s SketchUp, Energy3D provides an easy-to-use 3D graphical user interface for constructing model buildings. Students can quickly sketch up a building and even a village. A virtual heliodon can be used to visualize solar heating on the building being designed for any location in the world and any time of the year the user selects. Energy3D allows students to “print out” a design, cut out the pieces, and use them to assemble a physical model. In this way, Energy3D supports teachers to teach the full cycle of engineering process from conceptualization to production.

The EEE project has developed and tested the EEE curriculum. This curriculum bridges science and engineering by combining scientific inquiry and engineering design in a hands-on, project-based, and technology-enhanced learning process with the concept of energy in the central place for over 8-16 class periods. Through a set of laboratory experiments and computer simulations, students will be guided to learn the science behind energy flow and usage in houses. Prepared with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to undertake more sophisticated tasks, they then team up to design, construct, test, and improve a model house step by step, with the goal to maximize its energy efficiency at each step. The design, construction, and testing kits consist of free or inexpensive materials and tools, making the curriculum widely implementable.

In addition, the EEE project also features the Infrared YouTube website. We are developing a unique approach that uses affordable handheld IR cameras (under $900) to visualize invisible energy flows and transformations in easy-to-do science experiments. Using this "desktop remote sensing" approach, thermal energy can be readily "seen." Other types of energy that convert into thermal energy can be inferred from thermal signals. Hence, many invisible physical, chemical, and biological processes that absorb or release heat can be visualized, discovered, and investigated.

For more information, please visit the Engineering Energy Efficiency web site:


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