Energy Applications on Display at the US Science and Engineering Festival
The “Powering Today and Tomorrow” exhibit at the 2014 US Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, helped K-12 students learn about the transmission of electricity through everyday examples. Young students explored the behavior of static electricity generated by a plasma ball, the effectiveness of solar powered model cars, and the design of circuits that are similar to those found in homes. Over the three-day Festival, the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electrical Energy Transmissions Networks (CURENT), headquartered at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), saw several thousand student visitors. Helping with the exhibit were graduate students from UTK and teachers local to the university. Over 1,200 students visited the CURENT exhibit.
“Powering Today and Tomorrow” encourages students to physically interact with manipulable devices to gain an understanding of electricity. All ages can learn from the activities and participants will hopefully be inspired to continue to study electricity or renewable energy. The need for students entering into electrical engineering and power-related studies is critical for the future of the nation, as many of the technical professionals in this field are approaching retirement age. A new generation of power engineers needs to be developed quickly. This Festival engaged whole families to explore engineering learning through hands-on projects.
The students and their families learned about the factors that change solar panel performance, constructed simple circuits that included a control like a switch or potentiometer and a load like a light bulb or buzzer, explored the effect of light bulbs arranged in series and in parallel, designed the wiring inside a model house, and learned about the effects of static electricity generated from a plasma ball. The activities had varying degrees of difficulty so that all ages could be challenged when performing the activity.