Education Outreach for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE continued in September and October, 2011 at the U.S.Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon held in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. Nineteen collegiate teams from around the world competed to determine which group had created the most efficient solar powered home. Competition categories included Architecture, Energy Balance, Affordability, Engineering, and Market Appeal.
Though quite a few of the competition days were solar-challenged, the demonstration homes performed well, and visitors lined up for a chance to inspect the innovative design and construction inside and out.
The Under The Hood – Drive Change Today activity cart was very popular with the energy-efficiency-minded Solar Decathlon visitors. The activities in the cart are designed to provide a hands-on introduction to principles of energy use, by-products of energy consumption, and conservation.
Mixing vinegar and baking soda provides an immediate Carbon Dioxide reaction…
…while yeast and water take longer to work together to create the same effect.
The aerodynamic properties of cars of different shapes and sizes were compared on test tracks. With hair dryers creating wind resistance, it was clear that boxy designs and luggage racks can drastically reduce energy efficiency.
A favorite activity was the battery circuit station, where the challenge was to complete an energy circuit utilizing a battery, wires and tape, in order to light a small bulb. The more batteries, the brighter the light, until the tiny lights blow from the energy supplied by about 6 to 7 D batteries.
The principles how of interlocking gears work to control speed and direction of movement were explored by many visitors to the booth as well.
At the NC Museum of Life and Science in Durham, a week of Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE education events and activities were held in the museum’s hands-on investigation lab space.
Museum visitors learned that under-inflated tires and dirty air filters are two enemies of energy efficiency.
Visitors used a high-magnification camera and display screen to compare clean and dirty filters and learned how a dirty air filter slows the intake of air needed for efficient burning of fuel.
The challenge of designing and constructing paper luggage racks and testing their effect on a car’s aerodynamics was also a popular activity using the museum’s high tech spring loaded tester track.