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Renewable Energy Living Lab: The Bright Idea
https://www.teachengineering.org/view_activity.php?url=collection/csm_/activities/csm_brightidea/csm_brightidea_activity1.xml

Mike Mooney, Minal Parekh, Scott Schankweiler, Jessica Noffsinger, Karen Johnson, Jonathan Knudtsen, University of Colorado; Colorado School of Mines

In this activity, students play the role of energy consultants to a CEO, assessing and documenting the feasibility, cost, and environmental impact of installing solar power on 4 company facilities with the same design but in different geographical locations.

Activity takes about three 60-minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Educator should become familiar with the mapping tool before using the activity with students.
  • If educators wanted to make the activity more challenging or more open-ended, the mapping tool could be used for a variety of questions to evaluate the feasibility of renewable energy sources in different locations.
  • Educator should preview the worksheet prior to use.
  • If students do not conduct the related activity Exploring Regional and Local Resources prior to this activity, educator may need to spend a little extra time demonstrating how to navigate the the living lab interface tools and make data queries.

About the Science

  • This activity involves the science and technology behind the choice to use renewable energy, focusing on solar photovoltaic power: pros and cons of solar power at four specific locations, including feasibility (space, availability, etc.), cost, and environmental impact.
  • Data for the activity comes from National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is an engineering-driven exercise to evaluate the feasibility of powering buildings with 100% solar power. Students use a mapping tool to look at the energy that can be gained through different types of renewable energy sources and then make simple calculations to see if a typical office buildings can be powered by solar energy. The tool could be used for other types of inquiries as well.
  • The skills developed in this activity range from geospatial, to quantitative, to written and oral. Because the activity is problem based, it is engaging for students.
  • Assessment ideas and extension activities are included.
  • Activity is well designed; Renewable Energy Living Lab is data and resource rich and designed for high school age student use.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All the materials are provided, including student worksheet, teacher's guide, and background information. The design and layout are clear.
  • Finding specific cities on the mapping tool is not intuitive. In the upper right corner, underneath 'change base map,' click on the circular icon, which when hovered over says 'zoom to a location.' Then type in the city name.
  • One caveat: NREL data visualizations are a beta release, so they may change or be relocated over time.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

This activity is part of a larger curriculum found here: https://www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/csm_regionallocal_activity1.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-ETS1.B1:When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

HS-PS3.B4:The availability of energy limits what can occur in any system.

HS-PS3.D3:Solar cells are human-made devices that likewise capture the sun’s energy and produce electrical energy.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Developing and Using Models, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

HS-P2.1:Evaluate merits and limitations of two different models of the same proposed tool, process, mechanism or system in order to select or revise a model that best fits the evidence or design criteria.

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

HS-P5.5:Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.).


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