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The PowerHouse classroom education program connects Maine's 7th and 8th-grade students and their laptop computers to their household smart meters, enabling them to set savings goals and monitor daily, weekly, monthly and annual progress toward those goals. This capacity is enabled because every 7th and 8th-grader in Maine has his or her own laptop computer, connected to high-speed Internet access in every classroom, and 95% of Maine households (700,000) are equipped with smart meters.
By collaborating with Central Maine Power Co., the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) has developed and deployed the software platform that enables students to display their own household usage data. A series of classroom activities and challenges equips students with knowledge about how electricity is produced and consumed, and how they can more effectively manage electricity consumption at home.
In prototyping with several hundred students, GMRI noted that middle school students are interested in global concepts like climate change, but that they lack mechanisms for relating their own habits and family practices to these global issues.
Inspired by the Green Energy Tracker, a winning idea from Contest #1, GMRI used the ISO New England Web Services API to overlay carbon impact (represented by near real-time fuel mix) on individual household electricity data, providing students with personalized representations of the amount of carbon produced as a result of their household's electricity usage. This carbon value is determined by using the 50th percentile data provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, expressed in CO2 equivalents per Kilowatt hour. As CMP and Maine’s Public Utilities Commission establish time-of-day pricing structures, we will add cost data to the carbon tool, providing an even more refined mechanism for families to understand the carbon and cost impacts of time-of-day electricity usage.
By utilizing the How Clean is Your Shirt? functionality, students can make informed decisions not just about how they use electricity at home, but when they choose to use that electricity. Equipped with rigorous data and analysis tools, students become a driving force in reducing their household carbon footprint, while gaining relevant skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.