California Physics Students Expose Energy Suck at District Office

A group of California high school students told their district to start turning off lights and managing its computer power usage better. That suggestion came out of a physics project in which students at San Leandro High School used monitoring software to study how energy was used over a recent month in the district office, particularly on the weekends and in the evening when nobody was working.

The set-up included smart meters from echoMESH, which fed data to OSIsoft's PI System, the monitoring software used by the students.

The students found that lights were left on until four in the morning and then switched off until six, when staff started arriving. As a student-produced video noted, "We don't think anyone is working that late, so we hypothesized that if they turned the lights off earlier, they could save energy and money."

Another area of concern was the fact that the power used by receptacles never moved below six amps. "We believe there are a lot of computers and copy machines that are left on and draw a lot of current even when they're not being used," the students said. "We suggested that they plug as much as possible into power strips so they can easily be switched off at night and on the weekends."

Now the students are waiting to see "if the district will take our advice, and we look forward to looking at how the graphs change if they do."

OSIsoft, whose headquarters are located in San Leandro, promoted the project to teachers as part of STEM curriculum.

"This form of collaboration between industry and academia offers students experiential learning opportunities that allow them to put theory into practice and make a difference," said Jenny Linton, company president, in a prepared statement.

"STEM education is critical to our country's competitiveness in the future", said district Deputy Superintendent, Rosanna Mucetti. "Hands-on experience is critical to keep students motivated and engaged in the STEM fields, and partnering with industry is an excellent way to accomplish this. We appreciate the support of OSIsoft and echoMESH in this effort and hope others will emulate this model of collaboration."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.