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PowerHouse Brings Climate Change Home for Maine Students

Jun 13, 2014
Cultivating Science Literacy

Global issues like climate change are challenging for adults, let alone 12-year-olds, to understand. GMRI’s newest education program, PowerHouse, takes climate change out of students’ textbooks and onto their kitchen tables – allowing them to grapple with this complex issue through the lens of their own electricity usage.

Maine leads the nation with the highest installed base of smart meters. With 95 percent of homes equipped with these advanced electricity meters, almost all Maine families now have access to detailed information about their household energy use.

PowerHouse fuses this detailed data with an educational framework that helps students conduct experiments and examine the impact of their families’ electricity usage. Equipped with this information, they can use the program to set electricity management goals and monitor their families’ progress.

Engaging students with this personally relevant data places them at the center of their learning, a key approach of our education programs.

Earlier this month, PowerHouse garnered national recognition from the White House and the Department of Energy for its latest enhancement – a feature called, “How Clean is Your Shirt?” This new tool overlays students’ hourly home electricity usage with its hourly carbon emissions. They can then explore how and why the carbon impact of their electricity usage varies throughout the day. The DOE selected it as one of four finalists for Best Overall Application in its Apps for Energy Challenge, earning us an invitation from the White House to show off the site in Washington, D.C.

Over the summer, we will be conducting a major update to the prototype PowerHouse website. We expect to bring the program out of beta in the fall and begin the rollout to classrooms across the state.