In 2013, the American Public Power Association's DEED research program provided seed funding to ElectriCities of North Carolina for E-Tracker, a hands-on energy education program for high school students. The goal of the multifaceted education program was to increase students' awareness of electric energy use at home.
Students had to read their electric meters and monitor daily high and low temperatures for 30 days. They then had to analyze the correlation between daily electric use and degree days, using a template spreadsheet. Students also measured the electric use of household appliances like refrigerators, televisions, and cell phone chargers using a Kill-A-Watt meter.
Since its inception, E-Tracker has been deployed sixteen times in 13 member cities. Rocky Mount, Wilson, and New Bern deployed it twice. The assignment is challenging, and teachers like that it makes their students think critically about how the weather can influence how fast the electric meter spins.
From ElectriCities' vantage point, this program helps city customer service efforts because it educates future customers about how the weather influences their families' bills. Customers who understand this relationship will be less likely to question why their bills increase as the thermometer swings with the seasons. E-Tracker has also raised the profile of member cities in their communities as many of the projects have been covered by local press and television stations.
At New Bern High School, 9th grade environmental science teacher Sandy Parker describes the benefits of E-Tracker in a YouTube video. "I wanted students to experience collecting data on a daily basis, seeing the correlation for a hypothesis they formulated at the beginning of the experiment. I wanted them to put that data in to a spreadsheet, or use the app on their phones where that was generated automatically and to manipulate that data. So we had a lot of technology skills, in addition to being scientists, and finally to being presenters of their work."
For New Bern High School student Jackson Boyd, E-Tracker was an eye opener and helped him envision what his future might be like. "I noticed that when it was colder, my electricity use went up a lot. When I grow up I want to be a particle physicist, and this project helped me learn what it is like to take up data, and it was really fun and I hope one day I can apply this to particle physics."
The city of New Bern — while implementing a strategic plan — heard positive feedback from customers about the value they see in their community-owned utilities, the importance of communication, and strong support for city staff actively partnering with the community. Citizens also said it's important for their utility to be a good steward of the environment and enhance the local quality of life. E-Tracker is one of the many initiatives that supports New Bern's mission and helps the utility respond to community needs.
E-Tracker is a favorite among New Bern employees as it helps to educate the community's future generations. Students share the conservation information they learn with their parents and other family members — extending the community reach and impact of the project.
Resource management and energy conservation are significant issues, and education is the key to tackling this challenge — together with the utility's customers.
The American Public Power Association encourages replication of the E-Tracker project by DEED member utilities. Learn more in the DEED Project Database — search for project S-210. Not yet a member of the DEED research and development program? Join today and learn how you can qualify for up to $125,000 in funding."