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Energy Lab


This online activity challenges students to design a renewable energy system for one of five different cities, each with different energy resource potential and budgets. Students can test their designs using real-time weather data in each city.

Activity length: One 50-minute class period

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 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

  • Show "Video Intro" to students before they begin the game.
  • Have students choose two sites from different parts of the country to design renewable systems for so they grasp the idea of why different energy resources are used in each site.

About the Science

  • This activity explores the potential of renewable energy - solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, in five different areas of the US.
  • The activity uses real-time weather data to evaluate different system designs. Thus the sunlight, wind, and other conditions in the five cities are used to measure the performance of each design.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students design a city's renewable energy system by analyzing energy data and the needs of the city. Like energy engineers, they need to weigh the pros and cons of each energy source, assess the availability in that area, and consider the needs of the location.
  • Lab includes an engaging and intuitive online "game," a series of short energy videos, and an assessment of the extent to which student designs met the goals of meeting energy needs with allocated budget.
  • Students watch a set of videos to gain background information about different types of renewable energy. Deciding what proportion of the different types of renewable energy to use will be difficult for students if they don't view the respective videos for each city/challenge.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The pricing of renewable energy is falling rapidly, so the pricing on the activity may not be up to date. Price information in the solar energy video is already out of date as of April 2017. Educators can seek up-to-date information on renewable energy at the Energy Information Administration.
  • A basic educator guide is supplied.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ETS1.B1:A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Developing and Using Models, Analyzing and Interpreting Data

MS-P2.7:Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

MS-P4.8:Analyze data to define an optimal operational range for a proposed object, tool, process or system that best meets criteria for success.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ETS1.A2:Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities

HS-ETS1.B2:Both physical models and computers can be used in various ways to aid in the engineering design process. Computers are useful for a variety of purposes, such as running simulations to test different ways of solving a problem or to see which one is most efficient or economical; and in making a persuasive presentation to a client about how a given design will meet his or her needs.

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

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Systems and System Models

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data

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-P3.3:Plan and conduct an investigation or test a design solution in a safe and ethical manner including considerations of environmental, social, and personal impacts.

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

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