Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=225795
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FUTURE ENERGY CHICAGO

Courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry's newest permanent exhibit, Future Energy Chicago, engages kids on energy issues through interactive games and simulations. The museum plans to develop companion materials online to further enhance learning.


Design your own energy efficient car

by Elizabeth McCarthy
Nov 14, 2013


Think you can design an energy efficient car? At the Museum of Science and Industry you can find out. Pick out engine types, transmission options and features such as stereo systems and paint color in an interactive simulation, part of the Future Energy Chicago exhibit.

Visitors split into teams - and the team may be your family or a group of classmates. Each team rotates through five games that challenge you to design an energy efficient house, plan a sustainable neighborhood, and engineer Chicago’s power grid. Teams earn points for energy efficiency, scores are displayed on screen and the winners among groups of teams are announced at the end.

“It was awesome,” said Hannah Miller, a recent young visitor from Island Lake, after she finished the one-hour simulation.

Future Energy Chicago is the museum’s newest permanent exhibit, and uses state of the art games and simulations to engage visitors on the key energy issues facing society today. The exhibit’s game design is unique in the museum world, said museum officials, and is specifically geared toward kids.

“We really want to inspire kids to think about their own future with respect to energy and the world in which we live in, and it starts right here in the city of Chicago,” said Patricia Ward, director of science and technology at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The museum consulted scientists, designers, and other experts from universities, corporations and national research labs like Argonne National Lab.

“We’ve developed this experience over three years with a host of independent, research-centered energy experts, and it has the depth to motivate both kids and adults to engage in an issue that affects all of us,” noted David Mosena, president and CEO of the museum.

Exelon and BP were the exhibit’s main funding partners, and served on the advisory committee. Ward said they offered expertise and information that were used in the simulations.

“They both have a very strong commitment to education, and so their main objective was that what we do here reflects the real world, tells the real story about energy, and that it’s grounded and it’s objective,” Ward said.

The simulation is currently open to school groups in the morning, and open from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to the general public. In the Energy Garden, open all day, visitors watch a film and learn about energy concepts through activities such as riding a bike to power a light. Future Energy Chicago is in its pilot phase, but the museum has plans to do more with it.

“We’re in the process of developing materials for our website and of course we’d love in the long run to be able to create things that extend it beyond the walls of the museum,” Ward said.

But visitors can already expect entertainment and education.

“They definitely got into it,” said Kriste Miller, referring to her daughters Hannah and Hailey. The Millers were the big winners at Future Energy Chicago that day, earning the most points out of all the teams playing games. “It was a fun way to learn.”