School: 8th Primary school of Nea Filadelfeia, Athens Greece
Participants: Students of 6th grade (11 to 12 years old)
Implementation dates: 7 February – 18 March 2022
Author: Stavroula Skiada
Having in mind that energy supply is tightly intertwined with many of the most damaging and dangerous environmental problems, a team of 6th grade students at the 8th Primary School of Nea Filadelfeia decided to change behaviors and raise awareness to the school community in pursuit of the sustainable well-being goal. Technology for good (Tech4Good) was the stimulus for the students to use the BBC micro:bit controller to address the critical challenge of energy-wasting habits in the school.
The STEM project “The Energy Awareness” was integrated into the cross-thematic national curriculum. It aimed to introduce students to basic skills of programming, computational and critical thinking, collaboration, and decision making. Moreover, STEM methodology promotes the 21st century skills and behavioral competencies. In addition, the use of innovative technology in the class contributes to sustain students’ optimal motivation and help them apply the fundamental principles and concepts of computer science. Concisely, the students monitored the energy use of light bulbs or tubes at different areas of the school and the time the energy source was in use. After that, they calculated the energy use in kWh. Then they collected all the data to a spreadsheet, presented them and informed the school leadership about the lights that need replacement. At the final phase of the project, qualified electricians changed the fluorescent light bulbs with LED ones.
Steps of the project
The coding part
In the beginning of the project, the students programmed their controllers to monitor the electric light use on the school premises. They implemented the coding part in the Microsoft MakeCode environment and turned the BBC micro:bit controller into an energy light meter. Using the MakeCode blocks, students stored the light level recorded by the micro: bit’s built-in light sensor in a variable (values between 0 and 255). The value closest to 255 means that this area needs more natural light. As a result more electricity is being used to provide the light needed. In the same time, students collected data using another variable to measure how long the light has been switched on in minutes. Most importantly, the code was kept simple in order the students to understand the process and the calculations, while the teacher took on the role of a facilitator to provide the necessary scaffolding.
Designing the school’s plot
In a subsequent step, a student of the team drew the plot of the school building to plan the light level measurements. In other words, the team pinned the spots where they should place the controllers and take light readings. Specifically, the students selected the areas of the ICT lab, the corridors, the classrooms, the school’s library, and the canteen. The rooms away from daylight, such as the school canteen and the corridors, were measured with the highest value of light use (values close to 255).
Data collection, processing and presentation
After the measurements of the light levels, the students collated the data in a spreadsheet and calculated the amount of energy used in kWh given the time and power consumed by electric lighting (kWh = watts ÷ 1000 × minutes ÷ 60). Subsequently, the team presented to the headmaster the numeric data and their visual representation in graphs. Moreover, a concrete solution was provided by the students: the fluorescent tubes or bulbs consume more energy than the LED ones. Consequently, the fluorescent lights of the places with the highest energy consumption should be replaced immediately.
The last activity at the closing phase of the project was the replacement of the old lights with new LED bulbs or tubes from the municipal electricians. The headmaster of the school informed the Municipal Education Directorates and communicated to them the data collected by the students and their proposal. Additionally, the students recycled the old lights to the light-bulbs recycling bin of the school. Last but not least, the headmaster of the school promised the project team that during the upcoming months qualified electricians will replace all the old lights so as to reduce the energy footprint of the school.
The educational objectives of “The Energy awareness” project were achieved. Students monitored the energy wasted in the school, collected good data to make decisions and presented the data, numerically and graphically, to help inform decisions. Actually, they had a positive impact on Climate change by contributing to the achievement of the “Affordable and Clean energy” sustainable development global goal 7. The educational approach of all the four disciplines of the STEM methodology during the implementation of this project fostered ingenuity and creativity, encouraged knowledge application and teamwork and taught problem-solving. Finally, yet importantly, the project engaged different stakeholder groups, including teachers, school leadership, municipality and most of all, students, in working toward a common goal. The collaboration between the school and the local community created an environment of shared values.
A video with all the activities of the “Energy Awareness” project