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Renewable Energy Puzzle Application

Puzzle games are a great way for kids to work on their problem solving skills. What if we could design a game that could show how PV solar systems work and how to design them?

Photo of Natalie Lake

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Currently beautifully designed games like Monument Valley are making a huge splash in the cellphone game world. What if we could design a puzzle game which helped children to understand photovoltaic solar systems and help them design their own PV solar systems.

Puzzle games increase innovation, and problem solving skills in kids. Similar to games where kids connect different types of pipe to get water from a well to a pump, we could design a game where kids get energy from the sun to a house. The player would choose how many panels they need, type of battery, and they would choose appropriate inverters and charge controllers to complete their system.

While this may sound incredibly difficult, the entire configuration would be one of the later levels of the game. The game would start of simply by simple connecting panels directly to the grid for example and would teach them how to match the number of panels necessary to the house's electricity need. Then in the next batch of levels, they could add in a charge controller and inverter to help protect their system. Finally in the more complex levels they would choose battery size.

Community! What do you guys think of this idea? Do you think its too complicated? I think middle school age on could potentially work this game. it could also be a fun educational game that environmental science teachers ask their students to play? (Wouldn't that be a super fun homework assignment!) 

Perhaps the object of the game could be something like "save the polar bears from global warming by reducing our CO2 emission" and for each level you pass you could save a polar bear? 

UPDATE:
Possibly making the game have a financial aspect. User can save money through using renewables which they can use on future maintenance of their system and upgrading their house (like FarmVille.)

UPDATE:

Unfortunately, the link to the application expires after each person views. I instead posted a video walkthrough of the application above to give you guys an idea of how the game will work. I am looking for any and all feedback! Thank you OpenIDEOers!


 

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

This would mainly benefit developed countries where ipad, smartphone use is high amongst youth. We could also make a computer version that could be played in areas who don't use smartphones, ipads etc as prevalently. I think this game is too complicated for kids under the age of middle school (so 12+.) Education level will be some math skills necessary and definitely literacy.

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

In order for our world to rapidly transition towards renewables, we first need to create awareness and improve education. Children are the future of this revolution and so focusing on their educational needs will only improve the chances of this revolution taking flight in the near future. Getting children interested in STEM fields (especially Environmental STEM jobs) is crucial for the rapid development of this industry.

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

I have no app development experience so I would love if someone who does wouldn't mind joining my team. Otherwise, I think I could definitely create a paper version and test it out on a group of kids.

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?

App developers! I really need your help on this. I have no experience designing and programming apps. I would really love some team members with experience programming apps and who are interested in my idea. Other than that, I would appreciate any and all input! Do you guys think that this would be feasible?

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

  • Solar

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual

17 comments

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Photo of Gabe Dominguez
Team

Hi Natalie, this is a really awesome idea for a game. Did you ever get past the prototype stage? 

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Sounds like a lot of fun Natalie!

You might also be interested in Tatina's idea over here: https://openideo.com/challenge/renewable-energy/ideas/renewable-energy-diy-projects-for-kids-and-teenagers

This reminds me of a lot of the maker kits out there aimed at kids (see http://www.techwillsaveus.com/shop/diy-kits/diy-gamer-kit-with-arduino-pre-built/ and http://www.bigshotcamera.com/). These kits do a great job at engaging kids to learn about science in an interactive way. There is a big incentive (you get to keep the thing you made), it's creative, engaging, and you get ownership over your new skills. Perhaps the app might draw on similar lessons to engage kids to help make solar powered solutions? Either they make something in the physical world that they can keep or they can use their skills to help community solar projects (in a similar vein to crowdsourced citizen science programs) - eg: kids help calculate the angle that a panels needs to be at to have the biggest impact.

As for some help with developing a prototype, it's pretty basic but PopApp is a great way to prototype simple iPhone apps. It's generally enough to get enough feedback to test your initial assumptions. All you need to do is draw
some screenshots, take a photo of them and upload into the app. Check out: https://popapp.in/.

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Jes,

Tatiana's idea is super cool and wow those DIY camera and video game kits are amazing! I'd think a DIY solar kit would be awesome but having built a panel, I can say that it would be pretty hard to make one that is kid friendly (the cells are crazy fragile.) However, I think a DIY wind turbine would definitely be possible! I built some small micro wind turbines that powered tiny LED lights while I was in Peru with my local high school students.

Thank you for the PopApp suggestion! I think I'm going to prototype a physical version to test on some local youth and then if it progresses, I will definitely look into having PopApp create my app! Have you used them before? Thank you for all the helpful comments!

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Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Natalie, can't wait to see how your prototypes go. Keep us posted!

The DIY wind turbine sounds great, especially in areas where wind has a lot of potential to generate energy. I wonder if it would be possible to make small scale water turbines in areas that have lots of small rivers or streams to see how the micro technology works.

I have used PopApp a number of times, it is super simple to use. Once you've got your basic drawings done, it only takes a couple of minutes to build the prototype app.

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Jes,

I think the idea of doing a small scale water turbine is definitely doable! I'm going to ask my friend who has a bit more experience with hydro but based on how we did the wind turbines, I think a water turbine would be equally easy.

Quick question about PopApp, I see that I get 2 project free but if I want to share the prototype app with OpenIDEO users, do I have to purchase a subscription to PopApp? Thank you for the super helpful comments!

Spam
Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hey Jes,

Nyko recommended another super great website (invision) and I've been using that. Here is a link to the app I'm creating and then below that is invision's link. (I'm still updating it a lot as I create each screen.)

http://invis.io/p/TK1ZO1HR9

http://invisionapp.com/

Again, thank you so much for the support and introducing me to popapp.

Spam
Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hey Natalie, so excited to see that you are prototyping! Unfortunately, the link to Invision isn't working for me right now but I'll try again tomorrow. You might be in editor mode or something. Can't wait to see where you're up to.

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Jes,

So I have to manually allow you to edit when you are on at the same time as me (I know this doesn't make sense but I cannot find a way around it.) Let me know when you're on and I can walk you through or allow you to edit so you can tinker around and let me know what you think. It is still HUGELY in progress but the bare framework is up :)

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Or if you'd like you can send me your email and I can add you to the project! (Just realized this.)

Spam
Photo of Jes Simson
Team

Hi Natalie, way to go!!! Love the prototype. I actually love how simple it is, it makes me think that I could install a solar panel if push came to shove (now to have a landlord who lets me ... ) Perhaps there's more of an interactive element as well - where users can input their family's data (it links up to electronic bills etc). This could help highlight usage habits, tangibly link that to the amount of greenhouse emissions produced, and then enable the user to actually create the solution by creating a virtual solar panel for their home. Perhaps there are also funding partners who also actually put money into solar energy farms for every (100) students who successfully complete the game.

Oh ... and my email is jes.simson@gmail.com

Spam
Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Jess,

Thank you! It took a lot of time putting together even this tiny prototype haha. Designing and installing systems really isn't that difficult so I'm glad you felt that way! (The game does simplify it a little and the game currently only shows through choosing panel sizes.) Right now, I'm leaning towards not sizing batteries or charge controllers because I question whether kids would be able to do that many calculations. (Also ignoring wire sizing.)

I like your idea for the game add on. The EPA's Energy Quest Vampire game is definitely a good model for that idea and I wonder if they would be open to releasing their programming to be absorbed by this game? I also love the idea of finding funding partners and the idea of setting it up like freerice!!! That is a great idea, thank you!

http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/vampires/dswmedia/index.html

As always, thank you for the great feedback and ideas.

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Photo of Monika Shankar
Team

Hi Natalie, fun idea!

The EPA has a webpage that lists various games with an environmental education element: http://www.epa.gov/students/games.html

Perhaps you could find some inspiration there!

Best,
Monika

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Monika!

Thank you for this amazing share. These games are great! I especially like the Energy Quest Vampire game. Super interactive way for kids to calculate out a rough estimate for their home's energy consumption! I will be sure to look through these games for some inspiration. Again, thank you for sharing!

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Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Way to go, Natalie! You might also consider addding currency to your game. It would be a good way of teaching kids how much money they can save by using renewable energy. Looking forward to your prototype!

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Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Alper!

I love the idea of currency! What if instead of saving polar bears, the incentive was sort of like Farmville where they could use the money saved to upgrade their house? It also opens up the concept of maintenance, e.g every 3 years, the kids would need to purchase new batteries for their system, every 20 new panels etc. What do you think?

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Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Great thinking! One of my professors in university is a professional game designer and he always says: " There are three crucial steps when designing a game: Play-testing, play-testing and.. play-testing!". It is really hard to guess if kids will enjoy the game.

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Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

I also love the potential financial literacy tie-in to adding currency.