Illinois university leads educational smart grid initiative


The university received a $450,000 grant from the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) for the programme, which is free to schools.

Brad Christensen, coordinator for the Integrated Mathematics, Science and Technology programme at the Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology housed at ISU, was reported saying: “The ISEIF funds several projects around the state with the primary goal of promoting the conservation of energy and safe use of energy and the latest technology of energy.

“We’re on our fourth year of funding from them, and in those four years we’ve trained over 600 teachers and probably over 16,000 students so far.”

According to the Washington Times-Reporter, Illinois electricity producers and distributors will be deploying smart grid technology across the state over the next five years.

The Smart Grid for Schools webpage at, states: “Like the internet, the smart grid will consist of controls, computers, automation and new
technologies and equipment working together, but in this case, these technologies will work with the electrical grid to respond digitally to our quickly changing
electric demands.”

Christensen added: “Most people know electricity gets to the outlet, but that’s about it. In order to help them understand smart grid and energy conservation, we needed to help them understand how energy gets to their house and how it’s used in their house.” [Black & Veatch report highlights importance of education in smart utility rollouts]

Hands-on experience

In order to give students hands-on learning opportunities, the programme built transportable replications of different rooms in a house, similar to a dollhouse, that
feature smart home technology.

“These rooms fit into big plywood boxes, and we roll those into a school,” Christensen explained. “They come with a tablet computer, and the students control their house with that tablet. So they can set the lights, monitor the energy use, monitor the smart meter and the security system, and they can programme the thermostat and the solar panel, electric car charger, all that stuff.”

“For these kids it will be the norm for them when they grow up and have their own houses. To us, checking to see if our garage door is up or down by looking at our
cellphone is still rather odd. But to them, that won’t be a big deal,” he said.


Image credit: 123rf