Energy Dept. Partners To Create Interactive Fuel-Efficiency Education Site


The United States Department of Energy, in partnership with Discovery Education and Progressive Insurance's Automotive "X Prize" Competition, has launched a new Web site aimed at stoking curiosity in science, technology, engineering and math topics (STEM). With the goal of encouraging all manner of interest, education and experimentation in creating alternative fuels and vehicles that can use them, is an online center dedicated to all aspects of fuel efficiency.

With extensive curricula provided by Discovery Education, the Web site offers a variety of grade-appropriate topics for K-12 students. Elementary school students, for example, can learn the basics of what makes cars go and then build on that knowledge with the rudiments of physical concepts such as force and motion. Middle schoolers can learn specifically about fuel efficiency and explore what has to go into conceiving their own energy efficient vehicles, and grades 9 and up have the opportunity analyze actual current issues in mass transit.

Discovery's offerings on the site include puzzles and games, questions for independent research, and even a virtual lab where students can learn about topics related to their grade-targeted projects by watching videos and animation of the concepts being applied and explored in real-life situations.

In addition, the Teacher Toolbox page offers educators resources, including lesson plans and in-class activities, to coincide with the respective grade levels of their students.

The site also offers an opportunity for parents to work and learn with their children. The Parents Corner page offers activities that call for cooperation of the entire family, as well as energy efficiency news and topics for family discussion.

The Automotive "X Prize" Competition, sponsored by Progressive Insurance, is a global search for clean, roadworthy vehicles, feasible for mass production, that offer fuel efficiency of, or equivalent to, 100 miles per gallon. Each participating team will design, engineer, and manufacture a prototype of its vehicle, and the winning teams will split a $10 million purse.

In partnering with X Prize, the Department of Energy and Discovery Education seek to show the potential tangible rewards for students exploring, on a real-world level, the prospects for improving energy efficiency and the knowledge required to make it happen. Historically, educators have sought to inspire students by making them aware of the intangible rewards, such as improving air quality, mitigating global warming, and saving the planet for future generations. The partners behind Fuel Our Future Now acknowledge the paramount importance of such goals, but they also want to emphasize that avid interest and participation in the pursuit of energy- and fuel-efficiency can be extremely enticing by associating success in these fields with a potential share of $10 million.

"The online knowledge center's resources challenge students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math in a relevant and grade appropriate fashion," said Discovery Education Director of Curriculum William McDonald.  "The Progressive Automotive X PRIZE is a compelling tool with which to engage students in STEM education, and we've designed the accompanying curriculum modules to help teachers take full advantage of students' interest in this exciting competition."

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.

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