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May 01 2016

The Sustainability Hack: Smart Grid and Energy Use Awareness

#hivebuzz, Go Hive Chi

sustainability-hack-teamThe Sustainability Hack is an initiative for high school teens to learn about and bring public awareness around energy and well-being, alternative energy systems, monitoring energy use, use of artificial and natural light, home energy audits, light bulbs, renewable and nonrenewable energy sources, energy careers and light with eLearning support; and deepening learning with General Science Standards in preparation of Smart Meters being installed in every home.

You can watch the video here of the learning experience the teens went through learning about energy sustainability.

The eight high school teens form the Student Design Team are tasked to create models (digital and physical) of the YOUmedia Space at the Harold Washington Library Center applying energy reducing strategies and concepts listed above to create a more energy sustainable space. In addition, the SDT will create a design challenge using the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s platform for participants to use these energy savings strategies in their own public space. The design challenge will be made available in late March early April 2016.


Program Mapping

Workshop WEEK I: Energy & You!
Welcome &  Introduction: Names & Energy Symbols
Overview of Workshops and Expectations

Workshop WEEK ll: Light & Energy
Introduction to Energy in People and the Planet
Calories, Joules and BTU’s!
Students will discuss energy and well being.

Workshop WEEK III: Artificial light & Energy Use 10 20
Students will be introduced to the basic types of light bulbs and how to read and estimate the energy use using the equation: energy = power x time. Also, teens took a field trip to the SOM Lighting Lab to see how lighting and materials affect spacial comfort and careers associated with sustainable design.

Workshop IV: Exploring Energy Options

Review Home Energy Use Audit: record group time, bulb types and energy usage.Calculate peak times of energy use and peak seasons. Introduce Energy Types

Students explore types of energy ( energy) and learn difference between potential and kinetic energy sources (Worksheet). Students explore alternative renewable energy systems building wind powered and solar powered kits.  They are introduced to the parts of our electric grid system ( Smart Grid Journey). They locate the energy grid that serves their home; they will evaluate what sources the power plant uses to produce energy. They assess You Media’s current Energy use with a similar workshop to the House Assessment Sheet.

Workshop IV Part 2: Exploring Energy Grids 11 03

Students conduct an inventory of energy use on earth connecting natural and built systems and explore how energy is delivered to their homes using the existing grid model, and investigate the various sources that supply electricity (i.e., fossil fuels and renewable resources). Students print a goggle map of the neighborhood where they live. They track how energy comes to their house on a second larger area map that locates both their house and the energy plant.

Workshop V: Design Hack Model, Prototype; Test; Evaluate; Propose

Teens finish their physical and digital model of the YOUmedia space incorporating energy concepts they were introduced to during the project. Teens also finish building three miniature light scoops to demonstrate the benefits of LEDs.

Workshop VI – Xll: Design Challenge 

Teens finished the 2nd half of the project working on the design challenge honing in the design process that participants would follow incorporating Smart Grid, energy, and sustainable concepts into their own public space. Teens were introduced to design thinking and how to formulate their learning experiences and content learned into a design challenge for others to participate in they can do at home. This design challenge will be hosted on platform of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Click below to see their document.


Program Outcomes


After Sustainability Hack
● After meeting and working with professional architects, lighting designers, and
engineers, over 50% of the students felt like they knew very well the diversity of careers
in energy; the rest felt that their understanding was open and growing.
● at the end, 75% of the students felt they knew the role of design as ‘half a pro’ and the others as ‘very well’.

LcuxCPsVGQC4Ih0wbPCZRPkQW_8KOkw0FAN-80r7LcjRUwBFlqSuIWxdcu_LwlkYyKFBHQ=w1167-h656● At the end, 100% knew the different types of light bulbs in the residential market and
how to compare energy efficiency when buying bulbs.
● By the last workshop, 75% knew how to use light meters very well and the other 25%
like ‘half a pro’.
● After the eLearning support and worksheet, 80% knew about electrical grids very well,
including their components enroute from energy production to the home.

The Student Design Team will present to Chicago Public Library leadership on their project, their findings and recommendations, and what they’ve learned. and Chicago Public Library presented the Sustainability Hack at the Healthy and High Performing High Schools Symposium at Gwendolyn Brooks High School presented by the U.S. Green Building Council Illinois Chapter and the Association for Learning Environments.  You can see the interviews with the teens as well as the project throughout in the overview section above.

Click here to see more of the programs outcomes including the Student Design Team’s physical and digital models of the YOUmedia space along with a miniature and life-size light scoop the teens made as well.

Check out the program mapping folder which includes the week to week content covered in the Sustainability Hack and the Student Design Team’s content for the design challenge around energy sustainability concepts.


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