Students give village of Winfield a lesson in energy efficiency
The Village of Winfield is seeking recommendations on becoming a more sustainable community from an unlikely source. Recently, Village President Eric Spande and the Winfield Public Works Committee welcomed Winfield Central schoolteacher Cori Nelson's sixth- to eighth-grade students to present recommendations on how the village can save energy -- while also cutting costs.
Earlier this year students interviewed the village engineer, and after deciding LED street lighting could have substantial environmental and cost-saving impacts, the students set out to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for the village to consider.
"We first researched the history of the light bulb and discovered they didn't really change for 125 years with most of the bulb's energy being lost as heat," said Valerie Harris, a Winfield Central School sixth-grader. "So, we decided to conduct experiments in our lab to compare different bulbs, graph the change in temperature, and measure how many watts were used by the different bulb types. Across all of our experiments, the LED bulbs were the clear winner."
Over the last two years, students like Valerie at Winfield Central School have become local experts on conservation and energy-technology as they've worked to master energy-focused STEM curriculum through the Energizing Student Potential program. Powered by the Exelon Foundation, the National Energy Education Development Project and other major energy providers, these students have conducted energy audits, explored clean energy alternatives and experimented with cost-saving tools such as LED lighting and smart meters.
"Energy-related STEM curriculum and careers present great opportunities, and we're giving our middle school students early access to these programs," said Nelson. "These students know they use energy all the time, and they are eager to learn and share their knowledge about practical and sustainable alternatives with their community."
Ultimately, Valerie and her classmates calculated that installing the LED street lamps would take 21 years to achieve a return on investment, and that timeline could double when labor costs are included. But the students didn't stop there. They researched funding sources to reduce the cost of this energy-efficient alternative and informed the Village that ComEd offers financial incentives for projects that support clean energy solutions like LED street lighting.
"At Winfield, ESP is allowing me to take our STEM education to the next level," said Nelson. "We've created an after school 'Energy Squad' which is where most of the work for this presentation was completed. It is so rewarding to teach a curriculum that empowers students to educate others and pursue real change."
Supported by the largest clean electricity producer in the country, Exelon, and other major energy providers, Energizing Student Potential directly impacted more than 38,000 students and nearly 300 teachers in Illinois, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania during the 2016-2017 academic year.
Winfield Central School was one of 110 Illinois schools to utilize the Energizing Student Potential last year, and in the 2017-2018 academic year, the program has expanded to 40 additional schools statewide.