Making energy saving ‘cool’

Researchers from the IOE's London Knowledge Lab will be finding ways to make energy-saving cool, as they engage teenagers in using digital technology to change their behaviour, reports the Institute of Education.

The London Knowledge Lab is part of a consortium which has been granted Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funding worth £320K for a three-year project, "Taking on the Teenagers – Using Adolescent Energy to Reduce Energy Use". It has been developed for the UK Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation Scheme (TEDDI), and formally begins in October 2010.

Using web-based, mobile phone and wireless sensor technology, the project will develop two digital products, one designed to appeal to younger teenagers, the other to interest older adolescents.

The project is the first energy efficiency scheme to engage directly with teenagers, who will be involved as co-investigators. It is intended to educate, inform and empower teenagers through their active involvement as design informants, evaluators and researchers.

This information and input will be used to design the digital products and to change teenagers' attitudes and behaviours in their use of electrical appliances, with the ultimate aim of reducing energy consumption.

Initially, a story-gathering web-portal will be used to discover teenagers' opinions about energy use. This 'blog' will continue throughout the lifetime of the project and will allow researchers to investigate changing attitudes. Some teenagers will get the chance to attend a summer workshop, working alongside academics and experts.

The project will also see the formation of an industrial advisory board and there will be regular workshops with industry representatives. At the end of the project the team will deliver a dataset to industry that shows the habits, attitudes and behaviours of teenagers providing for industry a unique view on teenage energy habits.

The project seeks to discover what teenagers think about energy and find methods to change their energy habits. It will also try to determine what makes technologies "cool" for teenagers, determine methods for evaluating changes in their attitudes and behaviour, and involve teenagers in design and evaluation.

The project is led by academics from the University of Central Lancashire, working with Swansea, Northumbria and Birmingham Universities and Birkbeck College, along with the IOE team, headed by Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design, London Knowledge Lab.

More information can be found at the project website: