Future Energy Chicago: A Museum-Based, Multi-Player Simulation Experience

Friday, 14 February 2014
Grand Ballroom C North (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Patricia L. Ward , Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Future Energy Chicago is a museum-based simulation that challenges middle-school students to create innovations that contribute to Chicago’s future energy landscape.  Its primary objective is to engage young people, particularly youth between the ages of 10-14, in the topic of energy and to inspire, encourage and empower them to envision their own role in our energy future.

In this 45 minute experience, students visiting the Museum in their school groups are divided into teams of approximately six players each, and play the simulation’s set of five games that combine both physical and digital elements. The students take on the roles of an automotive engineer, energy consultant, urban planner, transportation planner and power engineer as they design an energy-efficient car, house, neighborhood, transportation system, and manage an array of power plants to supply power to the city of Chicago. To add realism and challenge to this quest, various constraints and opportunities will appear, compelling students to balance various factors without losing sight of the goal. Players are given a virtual supply of “energy points” in a virtual “Energy Tank.” During game play, this tank reflects the energy impact of each choice: the more energy in the tank, the better. The Future Energy Chicago simulation is both a collaborative and a competitive experience and the teams’ ongoing results are aggregated on the scoreboard in real time.

The simulation’s scoring system is grounded in real-world data and the software includes a content management system allowing the Museum to update the raw data as conditions change over time. The games incorporate a variety of design elements to provide students with incentives and a variety of difficulty levels as well as support mechanisms such that the students can feel both challenged and successful.

Through this collaborative game-based play, students learn science and technology concepts related to energy efficiency and how they play out in the real world.  The museum-based experience is facilitated by the Museum’s education staff and is accompanied by a pre-and post visit in-classroom curriculum. The presentation will include visual representations of the simulation as well as a discussion of how games-based learning has been incorporated into the experience design.  In this session, the panel will also present ongoing research and evaluation results designed to understand the impact on students’ learning and engagement with the topic of energy and its underlying science and technology.