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Renewable Energy DIY Projects for Kids and Teenagers

Let's create a website with DIY projects that kids and teenagers (with help, if needed) can build at home or for school science fest. This will make young generations more aware about renewable energy and its benefits and make the whole process more entertaining.

Photo of Tatiana Vekovishcheva

Written by


To design new energy solutions we need new mindsets in the first place. As most of our mental models come with the social environment we encounter as kids and young adults, engaging younger generations in thinking, doing, and being related to renewable energy is a vital strategy if we want to make a historic transition as a civilization. 

Besides influencing future visionaries and change agents through formal education, it is important to facilitate self-learning and playful exploration, which is why I suggest an easy-to-use website devoted to DIY projects that specifically rely on renewable energy of various kinds. As far as audience is concerned, I suggest to focus on teenagers and parents of younger children. Projects should be suitable for carrying out at home or school and it is also important to design an intuitive and effective search system. As a supplementary function, the website could offer webinars and other resources on topics related to renewable energy and its usage. 

This would make the whole idea of green energy easily accessible for young people and encourage them to use and promote it now and later in life, maybe even by pursuing a career in STEM and renewable energy.   

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This idea potentially creates strategic benefits for a wide range of communities that would be redesigned by future visionaries and change agents inspired by renewable energy ideas at a young age. The serviceable market is basically all teens/parents with access to the Internet (as a potential future step, sending project descriptions via text messages could be considered to access certain disadvantaged communities).

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

This will raise the new generation of people who are much more aware of renewable energy, its methods and benefits, and therefore are both open to testing new energy solutions and even contributing with their own ideas. If we want a large-scale transition, we need to design and spread new worldviews in the first place.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Select and test projects first. Just pick one particular school/class and try some cool projects out with students. Gradually shift to online communication building a simple prototype of the website.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I would appreciate feedback and links to resources. Any kind of collaboration is most welcome, especially if you have background in education or web development.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual

15 comments

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Spam
Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Tatiana,

So I just posted this on Marine's idea as well but I was thinking about your DIYs and the gift my friend's little brothers got as stocking stuffers completely slipped my mind! Did you know that they sell DIY solar powered robot kits now! I think it compliments both your (and Marine's) ideas nicely. They are a bit pricey however so I'd love to see cheaper ways of building these solar robots! I think that solar robots, are great because they would be functional as a toy but also increase awareness about STEM disciplines in kids.

This would be an expensive but awesome pilot! Look how cute this grasshopper is!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000QX3NYG/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000QX3NYG&linkCode=as2&tag=virwol-20

This is the same one my friend's little brothers got.

http://www.scientificsonline.com/product/14-in-1-educational-solar-robot-kit

This is a cheaper DIY cockroach robot you could do?

http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/diy-solar-powered-cockroach-toy-is-a-perfect-kids-project.html

Hope these are useful!

Spam
Photo of Jaime Gusching
Team

Hi Tatiana!

I love your idea of focusing the attention of youth on environmental science with DIY projects. There is nothing like touching and feeling the problem to get a better grasp on it.

If your website of DIY projects featured a range of projects, appropriate for different age groups, that would be awesome. I can even picture a "phone the scientist" feature where you could call an expert if you got stuck.

Here's a tangent. If the goal is to make true environmental evangelists, exposing kids and teens to environmentally degraded areas may also make a strong impression. What if junior highs or high school students took a field trip to a landfill, fracking site, or deforested area? Then, post-trip, they were offered concrete ways (such as school clubs, etc.) to combat environmental degradation.

Targeting schools is one way to reach a meaningful scale. Getting lots of students involved is key.

Spam
Photo of Tatiana Vekovishcheva
Team

Hi Jaime,

Thank you very much for suggestions! I love "phone the scientist" option.
Also, school tours to areas influenced by environmental degradation is a powerful addition.

Some aspects of environmental issues are easier connected with renewable energy than others, but this is still a powerful method.

Spam
Photo of Patrik Malmberg
Team

What a great idea. It fits very well in the current trend of the maker movement with Makerspaces popping up in many cities. Maybe it is possible to use the momentum from them and work with them.

I also like the "phone a scientist" idea - maybe that one can be solved with crowdsourcing. I am sure there a people out there that want to share but don't know how or for what. By having a crowd of scientists around the chance that someone have the time to answer increases.

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Photo of Risa Blumlein
Team

Jaime, I love the idea of exposing kids to the dark side of waste. I remember taking trips to the landfill with my gardener mother growing up and being absolutely stunned by the immensity of trash. I also recently delivered old used paint to our local waste facility and was deeply impacted by the toxicity that the workers are regularly exposed to. It was especially sad to see that almost 100% of the workers there were hispanic or african-american. This is clearly a socio-economic problem as well.

When living in a city it is easy to ignore what happens to all of our items (trash, electronics, plastic bags, etc.) after they leave our home, however it is critically important that people, especially youth, know the entire life cycle of an item. As I'm writing this, a thought just occurred to me - wouldn't it be cool to create an infographic about the life cycle of items like electronics or plastic bags and distribute publicly in schools and such??

Spam
Photo of Risa Blumlein
Team

Tatiana,

I'm so glad you posted this! I had a very similar idea based on sharing open source plans for renewable energy projects, so seeing your idea affirmed my own thoughts. Thank you!

One additional element I thought of was that interested youth could apply to be Project Reviewers and build the DIY projects themselves (maybe they get some incentive, like free materials or something). They then would rate the project based on qualities like cost, time, availability of resources, experience necessary, etc. and the projects could be organized on the website based on rating.

The Project Reviewers would benefit by having an opportunity to participate in a leadership role, and they could also have a photo and bio on the website. Then maybe they rotate quarterly or annually. Being a Project Reviewer could not only be an educational advantage for students interested in pursuing STEM careers but could also add an extra community engagement element to the website.

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Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Did you know there's a social platform for kids connected to making stuff? (http://www.diy.org) It's got a very inspirational website and also an app.
Kids learn skills and showw off their awesomeness; every skill consists of a set of challenges.
You wight want to check the challenges of the solar engineer (https://diy.org/skills/solarengineer) or the wind engineer (https://diy.org/skills/windengineer).

Maybe one can partner with DIY and promote renewable energy for a while? They have a nice blog and as far as I can judge it quite an active user community.

Spam
Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Some great ideas here! Can't wait to see your updated idea, Tatiana.

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Photo of Marine Barbaroux
Team

Hey Tatiana!

Natalie Lake sent me here. It looks like what I had in mind is similar to what you're doing. I can see how we can make solar panels in Schools. https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/give-dyi-solar-panels-workshops-in-schools

Perhaps we could team up?

Spam
Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Hi Tatiana, thanks for posting this. DIY is such a great idea for renewable energy education. I also went to some websites recommended by other OpenIDEOers and found that maker camp is very useful.

Some ideas here:
1) DIY can not only be started in schools, but also a "prelight" project at renewable energy companies which give students opportunities to intern or participate in a workshop. It may be cool to research if some companies in renewable energy industry have been doing it. if not, maybe we can start doing it!

2) start focusing on building practicable and affordable DIY kits and projects. Sometimes even just one or two successful projects will form great traction for a DIY green energy education. Seeing the illustrations of this project reminds me of Jay Silver the MIT media lab guy who came up with many interesting DIY projects:
http://web.media.mit.edu/~silver/videos.php

Reaching out to science labs and scientists in school or working who have expertise with renewable energy will be a good way to start further collaboration on coming up with project!

3) As Selina recommended, Maker Camp will be a place to start to look for successful projects and potential partners. More research online on renewable energy DIY projects and launchers will find us more resources.

Digging out renewable energy ideas from the more general STEM new edu will be very nice too!

Look forward to your feedback.

Spam
Photo of Tatiana Vekovishcheva
Team

Thank you, Shuting, this is really great feedback! I will update the idea, incorporating some of it.

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Photo of Ines Bernal
Team

Such a good idea! This way, teachers and parents would encourage children and teens to be aware of renewable energies while having fun. It has a lot of potential.
About web development, there're some open source websites builders that allow you to create your own website with no need to pay. The most famous is wordpress.com.

Spam
Photo of Tatiana Vekovishcheva
Team

Thank you, Ines! Do you have any experience with wordpress?

Spam
Photo of Selina McPherson
Team

I am loving this idea...and can totally envision it!

As you asked for some research and links from the OpenIdeo community, I thought I would provide links to some online learning sites that I've used which could be interesting for you to review (though they are not targeted at teens)
http://www.skillshare.com
https://www.coursera.org

And here is one cool online DIY camp hosted by Google and Maker that I just found (which is targeted towards teens)
http://thenextweb.com/google/2014/07/04/keep-kids-busy-google-makers-3rd-annual-diy-maker-camp-teens/

Additionally, I think that it is a great idea to get the parents involved and make this site appealing to them as well - getting the whole family involved may be a great entry-point for significant transformation to renewable energy for the whole household!

A great next step could be developing an experience map for this idea!
https://d3gxp3iknbs7bs.cloudfront.net/attachments/4d9f8db8-8d5e-4331-ab6c-4d44cc659589.pdf

Spam
Photo of Tatiana Vekovishcheva
Team

Hi Selina,

Thank you very much for the suggestions!
I agree with you, parents should be involved, and it can make a big difference.