Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™

Keeping the School Cool

Grade Level:

Activity Overview: Some schools and utility operators estimate that cooling K-12 schools claims roughly 35% of those buildings’ overall electricity consumption, by and large the greatest percentage of any end use. These costs mount, but cutting them cuts the quality of life for students and teachers. Fortunately, air conditioning powered by electricity is not the only way to keep cool in school.

Many other technical solutions exist to keep students and teachers cool during the hot months, but each one has a cost, both to install and to maintain month after month. The crux of this project is evaluating the costs and benefits associated with different cooling strategies.

Time: This activity is appropriate for project-based learning. As defined by the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning (PBL) invites students to “work on a project over an extended period of time – from a week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question. They demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience.” You could consider scheduling this activity at the beginning of a unit on energy, the environment, or engineering to challenge students to start thinking about different interdisciplinary issues. Alternatively, you could schedule this project as a “final examination” to assess students’ grasp of the material and engagement with the interdisciplinary process. For a different approach, consider scheduling a semester- or year-long project, with routine iterations and presentations. Students’ ideas and engineering designs will improve over the scheduled time as they learn more about the concepts and processes involved.

Resources:

Chapter 24: The Built Environment from Energy 101: Energy Technology & Policy provides an introduction to heating and cooling and other energy uses within the built environment, both residential and commercial, and how building design and other technologies affect energy consumption. Access to Energy 101 for Texas students and teachers is provided for free by the State Energy Conservation Office as part of the Watt Watchers of Texas program.

The Orlando Utility Commission compiled a comprehensive resource for K-12 schools including “quick fixes” and “longer-term solutions” for evaluating energy consumption within schools.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Education has commissioned a statewide heat abatement program in order to combat decreasing tradewinds and increasing ocean temperatures. Their approach to cooling schools includes many non-air conditioning options that students could evaluate.

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture has compiled an interdisciplinary report on the types, applicability, and impact of different geothermal options for the temperature regulation of the built environment. The report contains a case study including installation and cost information for the geothermal system installed at Austin Independent School District (AISD).

Birdville Independent School District (BISD) evaluated a variety of different factors in selecting criteria for their indoor air quality program, which also leveraged the geothermal resource.

Problem Statement:

Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy resources based on cost-benefit ratios.

Project Deliverables:

Students or groups of students should select a school or building and identify and evaluate different solutions for regulating indoor air temperature. Solutions should be evaluated for their benefits for the students and teachers and for their cost to the relevant stakeholders. The evaluation should take the form of a robust report, with sources appropriately assessed and referenced.

Evaluation:

Evaluate students’ projects according to the following criteria. Excellent project performance for each phase is defined below.

Select a Structure: Students should select a school or other building and describe the cooling requirements of the space for the occupants within. The requirements should be reasonable and classified according to both temperature and time of day.

Identify Solutions: Students should identify a range of technical and non-technical solutions to manage indoor temperature along the requirements defined above.

Evaluate Costs: Using a combination of digital, traditional, journalistic, and corporate resources, evaluate the costs of different solutions identified. Excellent work will use contemporary pricing information from different sources.

Judge the Benefit: Analyzing the costs and benefits of different solutions, students should rank which solutions are more and less ideal for the building selected. Excellent work will explore the tradeoffs of different solutions.

Share the Results: Students’ reports should be composed with an appropriate persuasive style and voice with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Alternative: Pitch Day

To further expand on this project, organize a “pitch day” on which students can present their analysis to their fellow students, other teachers, or even individuals in the community. Consider reaching out to the school district’s energy managers; officials from your local electricity, gas, or water utility; university or community college professors; or business-people to join the audience and to provide feedback.

Evaluation:

Use the modified assessment criteria articulated below:

Select a Structure: Students should select a school or other building and describe the cooling requirements of the space for the occupants within. The requirements should be reasonable and classified according to both temperature and time of day.

Identify Solutions: Students should identify a range of technical and non-technical solutions to manage indoor temperature along the requirements defined above.

Evaluate Costs: Using a combination of digital, traditional, journalistic, and corporate resources, evaluate the costs of different solutions identified. Excellent work will use contemporary pricing information from different sources.

Judge the Benefit: Analyzing the costs and benefits of different solutions, students should rank which solutions are more and less ideal for the building selected. Excellent work will explore the tradeoffs of different solutions.

Communicate the Results: Students should create a short but succinct presentation, which outlines the costs and benefits of the solutions identified. They should also compose a short “executive summary” with more information and their sources, composed with few to zero errors in grammar, spelling, or citations.

Provide Feedback: Students should compose feedback for other students’ presentations, which provides thoughtful and meaningful criticism of others’ solutions. The feedback should highlight both strengths and weaknesses in proposed solutions in a constructive and non-biased way.

NGSS

HS-ESS3-2, RST.11-12.1, RST.11-12.8, MP.2

TEKS

WGS.8A, IPC3.C, IPC5.I
ELA.9.13A, ELA.10.13A, ELA.11.13A, ELA.12.13A, ELA.9.13B, ELA.10.13B, ELA.11.13B, ELA.12.13B, ELA.9.13C, ELA.10.13C, ELA.11.13C, ELA.12.13C, ELA.9.13D, ELA.10.13D, ELA.11.13D, ELA.12.13D, ELA.9.13E, ELA.10.13E, ELA.11.13E, ELA.12.13E, ELA.10.15A.vi, ELA.11.15A.vi, ELA.12.15A.vi, ELA.9.16A, ELA.10.16A, ELA.11.16A, ELA.12.16A, ELA.9.16B, ELA.10.16B, ELA.11.16B, ELA.12.16B, ELA.9.16C, ELA.10.16C, ELA.11.16D, ELA.12.16D, ELA.9.16D, ELA.10.16D, ELA.11.16C, ELA.12.16C, ELA.9.16E, ELA.10.16E, ELA.11.16E, ELA.12.16E, ELA.10.16F, ELA.11.16F, ELA.12.16F, ELA.12.16G

Printed from wattdev.wpengine.com. Copyright © 2018 The University of Texas at Austin.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram