In 2015, The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) partnered with the Kansas State Energy Program to assist with the K-12 energy education program. In 2016 their efforts kicked off, and the team was committed to creating an impactful educational resource that could be deployed to K-12 classes throughout the state. The team consisted of David Carter, Program Director, Ryan Hamel, Energy Specialist, and Yvonne Cook, Energy Specialist. The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
When looking for an out-of-the-box educational tool for use in K-12 schools, David, Ryan, and Yvonne were inspired to think inside the room; a ‘Breakout Room’ to be exact. After David and his colleagues learned of the success Breakout Rooms have as a team-building experience, they jumped on the idea of putting a unique and practical twist on the team-building concept.
Through collaboration and diligent planning, the team finalized on a portable Breakout Room that can be played anywhere. It can be either self-administrated or administrated by a Kansas State Energy Program individual.
The premise of the portable Breakout Room is similar to that of an Escape Room. Groups must work together to complete steps, solve energy-related clues, and unlock the last box all within one hour. The lesson focuses on energy efficiency, specifically the consumption of incandescent, CFL, and LED lights. Each clue leads students to scientific instruments to complete each step. Thermal imaging cameras, light meters, and watt-meters are all used to demonstrate the core principals of energy consumption. The final step in the Breakout Room is a journal. These are filled in by each participant as a way to gather feedback and collect the educational impact directly from students. The takeaway has been incredibly impactful. Not only has the Breakout Room promoted team-work and communication, but it has also curated a hands-on way for students to test their knowledge and learn about energy.
Thanks to the grant funding, the portable Breakout Room is free to classes for up to two weeks at a time and comes with comprehensive administrative instructions. The estimated dollar value of the portable Breakout Room is around $6,000. The overall value expands beyond the actual activity; it encourages students to utilize their newly gained knowledge at home and inside the classroom. The portable Breakout Room is complete with clues, worksheets, supplies, and equipment, which is prepared by the Kansas State Energy Program team.
The first Breakout Room officially launched in the fall of 2018. Since then, it has circulated ten times, creating a lasting impact on the students and individuals that tried to ‘crack the code’.
The positive results and feedback from the portable Breakout Room has sparked inspiration to create additional themed Breakout Rooms and continuous educational material for those that have completed the activity. Recently a 2nd portable Breakout Room was completed. The focus is on conducting an energy audit. Another idea the team is exploring is a Breakout Room educating the students on wind turbines. The task would be to build a turbine to generate electricity within the time allowed.
Continuous education material is being developed as a follow up for those that have completed a Breakout Room and still have the box in their classroom. The material will include such things as a list of follow up activities that the teachers can do with the equipment that they have. For example, the portable Breakout Room includes a Lightbox that has a power meter. When plugged in it tests the amount of consumption something generates. The students would bring in something they use everything and test its consumption. From there, they can calculate how much they’re personally responsible for. This creates a relatability factor that they may not have experienced before.
With the support of the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Kansas State Energy Program was able to achieve its goal of creating an energy education resource tool for K-12 students. Their solution provides an engaging, creative, and team orientated outlet for learning about energy. The program is excited to continue to develop this resource and to get it into more classrooms.
The Kansas Energy program is housed within K-State Engineering Extension and provides energy education, grant information, and technical assistance to Kansas small businesses, K-12 educators, and governmental entities. Through these services, the team’s goal is to encourage the development and implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
David Carter is a Certified Energy Manager (certificate #13856) through the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (certificate #4906) through a partnership between AEE and the Efficiency Valuation Organization. Carter is also a certified auditor for environmental management systems (ISO 14001) and energy management systems (ISO 50001). He has been conducting energy audits since 2008 and has been with K-State Engineering Extension since 2006.
Yvonne Cook is a Certified Energy Manager (certificate #23937) through the Association of Energy Engineers. Cook has been involved in energy audits since 2013. She received her degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering in May 2011. Cook joined K-State Engineering Extension in 2012.
Ryan Hamel is a Certified Energy Manager (certificate #15745) through the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (certificate #4913) through a partnership between AEE and the Efficiency Valuation Organization. Hamel, a licensed Professional Engineer (State of Kansas, #24799), received his degree from K-State in Biological and Agricultural Engineering in 2007 and has been conducting energy audits since 2008. Hamel has been with K-State Engineering Extension since 2007 with a two-year stint in the private consulting sector.