Energy Sparks

An Interactive Gamified Web Based Schools Energy Competition and Education Program

Energy Sparks! Is a unique volunteer led project to teach primary school children in Bath about energy. The project’s aim is to provide children with life skills in understanding energy often lacking in adults, and at the same time to help schools reduce their energy costs.

The main platform for this education program will be a ‘Schools Energy Competition’.  We will use an innovative web platform that we are developing which integrates Smart Meter data for gas and electricity consumption and allows schools to compete to save the most energy and at the same time learn about energy. The web platform, which has received national grant funding from the Open Data Institute is currently being developed, and uniquely will turn energy saving into a game in which multiple schools will compete to save the most energy, which will enhance the school childrens’ enthusiasm and learning experience. Teaching resources will be provided to schools to support them in using the platform and teaching pupils about energy.

Four local organisations with complementary skillsets, Transition Bath, Bath: Hacked, Resources Futures and B&NES Council have combined to develop the platform and to support schools in teaching children about energy. We have received sponsorship for the project from the Open Data Institute, Bath & West Community Energy, Ovo Foundation and Naturesave Trust.

Background

Schools Energy Best Competition Newbridge School Switchoff CampaignIn 2015 a paper based version of the competition was run in Bath, between 13 primary schools, who on average reduced their energy consumption by 20%. This year with the development of our web platform we hope to build on this success and provide an enhanced experience for the schools, through automation, web based graphics, graphs and online gamification.

 

 

 

bath-hacked-meetingIn February 2016, Back: Hacked ran a weekend competition to develop applications using Open Source data at the Guildhall – School Power! was one of the winners of the competition, having developed a prototype application to display detailed school and public building Smart Meter data on the internet.

 

 

 

Web Platform funded by Open Data Institute

In August 2016 the Open Data Institute (ODI), following an open competition, awarded us with a grant to develop a web platform to display schools’ smart meter data. The ODI’s objectives in providing the grant is to make data more accessible and to make use of that data.

We aim to develop a web platform which will display previously non-publicly accessible gas and electricity data for anyone to access. Additionally, the platform will allow schools to compete to save energy, based on our previous experience this element of competition between schools creates enthusiasm with the pupils which enhances the learning experience. A unique element of the platform is to gamify the pupils interaction with the site, so they will be able to gain points for saving energy, meeting targets, and providing ‘interventions’ for example turning lights off, asking the caretaker to change the thermostats or just visiting the website to view their energy consumption. During the competition they will also gain points for problem solving, coming up with good ideas and for how often any videos they post are viewed.

An additional benefit of making the data public is that previously hidden data about energy use and costs will be made available to others within the school; governors, caretakers, teachers and parents. They will be able to see how well their school uses energy, how it compares with other schools (on a normalised basis for example per m2 of floor area or per pupil). So, interested parties in a school will be able to also help in this energy saving exercise.

All the software for the web platform will be open-sourced for use by other schools in the UK and worldwide. The platform will also be able to publicly display energy use data for other public buildings, as a result we have already identified opportunities in council offices.

energy-sparks-bath-hacked-prototype-dashboardWe are currently (November 2016) trialling the web platform with a small number of schools before launching the platform and the competition in January 2017. energy-sparks-bath-hacked-prototype-week-on-week-consumption-comparison

 

 

 

 

 

We aim to use this year’s competition to fine tune the web platform and use feedback to improve its effectiveness. Our long-term aim is to provide a platform which will allow us to run a competition at low cost in future years, and to teach subsequent generations of school children about energy.

How will the gamification work?

energy-sparks-bath-hacked-prototype-gamification-scoreboardUltimately it is a level based scoring system which mimics scoring functionality in adventure games children are already very familiar with from their home environments. We will adapt and tune as we go along.

Points will be awarded on a mixture of quantitative and qualitative measures. If enough points are acquired or multiple criteria are met schools will move up to the next level (i.e. be rewarded).

An example of a quantitative measure would be to set a target the school reducing its electricity or gas consumption by a percentage from one week to the next. Managing this for example 3 weeks in a row would be enough to move the school to the next level.

A qualitative measure might be the production of a good video by the pupils explaining how they have reduced energy consumption at home – on the week the lesson plan deals with home energy usage. This qualitative measure and the awarding of points associated with it will be manual, but the system will ensure the delivery of all the children’s submissions back to the central server. These qualitative measures will be used to compensate schools who are struggling to meet the quantitative measures for whatever reason – so we maintain their enthusiasm and they don’t get disheartened.

The aim of the platform is to make energy saving a year-round exercise in schools, so pupils, staff and parents can continue to use the platform to gain points throughout the year, not just within the confines of the competition period we are proposing.

What are the project’s timescales?

  • Sept-Dec 2016: Develop the web based platform
  • Nov-Dec 2016: Raise sponsorship to pay for specialist educational support for the schools
  • Jan-May 2017: Recruit schools for the competition
  • Oct-Dec 2017: Run a 10 week schools energy competition with 10 schools and about 1,000 pupils
  • Jan 2018: Analyse and writeup how the first year’s platform has performed and how we can improve it
  • Jan 2017++: continued use of the platform by local schools, platform available for other schools

What are the objectives of this project?

  1. The primary objective is to teach school children about energy and climate change, and provide them with future life skills
  2. We would hope to see a 20% reduction in energy use at the schools who participate in the program
  3. We aim to learn from the experience this year (2016/2017) to improve the platform and the educational experience in future years
  4. The platform will be open sourced for others to reuse
  5. A long-term aim would be to encourage pupils to apply some of the techniques learned at school to reduce energy to their own homes

Conclusion

This is a unique and innovative volunteer led project which needs sponsorship to allow us to provide educational support to schools taking part in the competition. The project ticks several high-profile boxes: primary school education, energy use, demand reduction, climate change, sustainability, innovation with open data and gamified learning techniques. Initially we are targeting approximately 1000 pupils (and their parents) at the 10 primary schools.

Benefit to the schools taking part  include:

  • a free education programme which will teach your pupils about energy, including math and creative writing skills with external professional support
  • the school should be able to reduce its energy costs; when we ran a paper based version of this programme in 2015 13 schools in Bath saved on average 20% of their energy bill
  • prizes will be awarded to schools who do well in the competition (the prize fund is currently £1,000)
  • the school’s energy consumption will be provided to pupils and staff in an easily accessible form (website graphs) making it easier to understand and manage

Further Reading

Energy Sparks Combined Logos