It’s back! This Saturday is Houston Energy Day and we’ll be out in Sam Houston Park. Come on out and explore the numerous displays and interactive demonstrations – including solar panels and an underwater remotely operated vehicle – and you can even stop by and meet me! This free family festival gives students the opportunity to meet energy and STEM experts and learn more about exciting and rewarding STEM careers. Remember to turn the lights in your house off before you leave to come to the Houston Energy Day.
What is your favorite STEM memory from past Houston Energy Days?
Yosemite National Park – America’s first national park – was established 127 years and a day ago. More than 1,100 square miles were set aside to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area. While tourists had been coming to Yosemite decades before it was a park, over grazing and over logging by ranchers and loggers were taking a toll. Through public policy and the efforts of citizens, a massive conservation campaign – spanning more than a century – has made it possible for millions of people experience the joy and beauty of nature at Yosemite and national parks across the country.
Now think what we could do with a similar effort in energy conservation. We are slowly phasing out incandescent bulbs for more energy efficient LEDs and we are ever so slowly moving away from fossil fuels as renewables become cheaper and more widely available. In addition, I minimize my energy use by unplugging my coffee maker every morning and using my programmable thermostat to only cool my home when I’m around.
What will the results of your energy conservation look like in 100 years?
Welcome back to school!
It’s been a long road, but we have finally started on the academic year. Some of us are in new and different schools – ones we hadn’t planned on being in last May. Being in a new school is a wonderful chance to start some new energy saving habits. You can start turning your lights out when you leave the classroom for the day and making sure all the computers are all powered off. Even better if you can convince the kids to take on that responsibility themselves. It’s good to get them thinking and talking about conservation at any age.
What will you do this year to get kids excited about energy conservation?
It’s been an exciting time – I was in Wyoming for all of August. Not only did I get to see the totality of the eclipse, but I spent a while digging dinosaurs with some great people. At the dig site, which was on top of a hill covered by trees, the paleontologists have an RV and a small building that houses a kitchen. Two solar panels, which they move during the day as the sun moves, supply all the electricity they need. They use the power in the RV mainly for lights, and in the kitchen, the refrigerator and the microwave are the only things that require electricity. They don’t need A/C or heating because the weather was so wonderful, and they cook on a propane stove or a barbeque grill. To help keep their supplies cool, they dug a small cave into the side of the hill and use its natural insulation. In these ways, they use their environment to minimize their need for energy – and to use the energy they do need as efficiently as possible.
What can you do to use your environment to save energy?
Most of us would assume the International Date Line (IDL) is a firm, straight line that divides yesterday from today that follows the 180° line of longitude. You think that would be a great many places were you could hop back and forth on the date line. The IDL doesn’t go through any islands or landmasses. It zigzags around countries. And it is very changeable. For example all of Alaska is in the same day, even though the Aleutian Islands go to the 172° E longitude line. And Russia goes to 169° W longitude. In 1892 the Islands of Soma (now Soma and America Soma) moved from the west side of the IDL to the east, causing them to have 2 July 4ths. And then in 2011 Soma crossed back over the line by dropping December 30 off their calendar.
Most of us would love to have an extra day. But since we all only get the same 24 hours we have to make the most of it. And there are many innovations out there to help you save time while saving energy. A programmable thermostat is great because you only have to program it once. Then you can sit back and not worry about whether or not you adjusted your thermostat when you left for work this morning. Another innovation you might invest in is a smart power strip. That way when you turn one device on the power strip off, it completely turns off all the devices on the strip. Then you don’t have worries about phantom load.
How will you save time by saving energy?
I’ll always remember the play I saw at the Globe theater in London. The Globe reopened 20 years ago almost on the exact same spot in originally stood in London. I was there for a show about 17 years ago. It was Richard III with an all-female cast. It was an experience to sit there (the bench was hard, straight, and without padding which helps focus the mind) and think about how good Shakespeare was at communication. He has many themes that resonate today. There’s love and loyalty, family and obligation, betrayal and misdirection.
And a very big thing in energy conservation is communication. It is wonderful the amount of energy you’re able to save, but how do you get your neighbor or brother to do it as well. Some might be swayed by tables and numbers. Like when you tell them you saved $30 by unplugging all the different chargers around your house. Some might be swayed by the effect on the environment. Whether you save coal and natural gas from being burned or you get your electricity from an all renewable supplier. Some might be moved if they think most of the people around them are doing it. And others may be moved because they see that you enjoy saving energy and making a difference.
How will you encourage others to save energy
It’s the anniversary of the very first vehicle produced by Ford, the Ford Quadricycle. This open frame on 4 bicycle tire had an ethanol burning engine and could reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hours with 2 gears, 1st and 2nd. Although there was not enough torque to shift into 2nd gear. We have come along since then. We now have cars that can go well over 200 miles per hour on the roads (I do not suggest trying this) and super-efficient cars (check out hypermiling). And there are many things we can do to save on gas and save on money.
A big one is to plan your trip out and optimize it for stops. What’s the best way to hit up all the shops today? Also take that junk out of your trunk. That extra weight can take away from your gas mileage. What about your tires? If your tire pressure is low that is literally a drag. You should check every now and again to make sure they are good.
What will you do to your car to make it more efficient?
Today is the anniversary of the last Mercury capsule launch. The Mercury programs was the very beginning of our space program. It was before we knew if humans could function in space. Because people had never tried to function past the Earth’s atmosphere before, they had no way to know what would happen to humans out in space. They thought that people on a spacewalk would be so euphoric that they would not willingly get back into their vessel. Or that people would instantly lapse into narcolepsy. Or if people could safely eat in space. All of these have been proven not to be the case.
Just like with space travel, there are myths about energy conservation. One being that it takes more energy to turn a device on and off instead of just leaving it on, which is untrue for all most all modern devices. Or that small space heaters are better during the winter than the installed heating. Small space heaters use an inordinate amount of electricity. Or leaving fans on when you leave the room keeps the room cool. Fans don’t cool rooms, they just move air around. Which cause people to feel cooler.
What was the most surprising thing you have learned from practicing energy conservation?
The worst and best prank I’ve had played on me was back in college. It was right before fencing club. As each person came to practice that night they were met by another member with a bunch of wet towels. That person would then say that the piping had burst in our equipment closet and the room that held all of our electronics was being flooded out. We would then run into the closet and be meet by a chorus of “April Fools.” There was no burst pipe and no flooding.
An electric bill can be like that, only without the relief at the end. It can come as a shock each month to see how much you are spending on electricity. Many electric companies are getting better about showing how much energy you use. I get an email once a week showing me how much energy I’ve used and how it compares with last week. And I can make a competition with myself to see if I can use less electricity each week. I can make sure I don’t have any cell phone chargers plugged in when I’m not using them. And that I unplug the coffee maker after I use it. And I can save some by running the fan instead of the A/C.
How will you use less energy each week?
Saving Day Light
It’s that time of year again. This weekend we Spring Forward an hour. Remember to set you clocks forward by an hour. What are you going to do with the extra light. Will you use it to read? Will you be outside till late in the evening? This weekend I’ll be using the extra light to camp by. And before I leave my house, I’ll make sure everything is off and most of it is unplugged. No reason to pay for things I won’t be using for a few days.
How will spend the daylight savings?
Happy Mardi Gras
It’s that time of the year again. The time to enjoy some good parades, see floats from your favorite krewes, and generally have a good time. What would happen if celebrated energy efficiency in the same way? Would we have large floats using LEDs? Would all the vehicle under the floats be electric cars? What sort of trinkets would we throw out? So enjoy the parades and make sure to turn your lights out when you leave.
What would a celebration of energy efficiency parade look like?
I hoped everyone enjoyed the Super Bowl this weekend. It was interesting to see the jets fly over the stadium on TV and then hear the sound a few seconds later in real life. A reminder that even though it’s on TV, it’s really happening. And those drones during the half time show were very cool and a little bit intimidating. It’s a good reminder that a bunch of small things can have a big effect. Or a bunch of small actions can lead to big change.
Our actions to conserve energy are the same. Unplugging the coffee maker every day only saves a little energy but if everyone does it, it creates a huge effect. Or if everyone recycled there paper. Alone it’s not a big effect, but with all of working together we can move mountains (of paper in this case)
What small things will you do to have a huge impact.
60 years ago a toy company released a plastic throwing disc modeled after a pie tin. That’s right, Frisbees. Frisbie was the name of the pie tin that college students would most commonly throw at each other. A young go getter was able to think outside the box and make not a better pie tin, but a more aerodynamic plastic disc shaped like a pie tin. How is energy conservation like a pie tin you ask. Is it the shape? Is it the tasty filling? No, it’s the ability to look at something and reimagine a better use for it. Motion sensors can be fun to play with, but what if you installed motion sensors and a timer on your lights? Well then they would only be on when you are moving around in the room. So if you want light, you’d have to be active.
What out of the box thinking will help you save energy.
Season of Giving
Have you gotten all your shopping done? Are the presents wrapped under the tree? Are you feeling the pressure of the season? Have I got good news for you. This year give the gift of energy savings. For your family you can do energy audits to see where their electricity is really going. Or install some insulation to help decrees their energy bill. A power strip makes a good stocking stuffer and would let them turn of multiple appliances all at once and cut down on phantom load. For work or school, you could volunteers to be an energy monitor. Once a week, you could go around and make sure all the computer screens are turned off. Or make sure all the lights are off when you leave at the end of the day.
What gift of energy savings will you give this year?
I touched on this briefly last week, but it’s the season in Houston for weekend festivals. The weather has become nice so it’s time to go outside. This weekend starts Earth Science Week. While there are events going on all across the country, I’m very fond of the ones in Houston. October 8 is Earth Science Day at the museum from 11 am to 3 pm. We’ll have lots of hands on activities throughout the museum. While it’s free with admission, we do have a special price for teacher and students. Just show up and go to the Houston Geologic Society’s table at the front of the museum.
Then, on October 15 is Houston’s Energy Day. It’s a free and fun open air festival with all sort of STEM activities. Drive a remotely operated sub, shoot some hoops, or grab a funnel cake. Or learn about solar panels and the solar potential of your neighborhood. You could even drop by and see me. We’ll be Sam Houston Park. Drop by and say hello.
As always when you leave your house for these events turn off your electricity. And, if you can, take the public transportation. How will you save energy for going to the festivals?
End of Summer
Well it’s the end of another summer vacation. Next week it will be time to go back to school. Do you have all your supplies ready? Did you get in those last little fun times before going back to school? Did you come up with a new carpool for this semester? Did you come up with new ways to save energy and money?
What new thing will you do this school year to save energy?
Now that it’s been nice outside for a while and starting to turn a little warmer, we are spending more time inside. This is the perfect time to take a look at the stuff around us and decide if we need to declutter. One thing I suggest is to get rid of the box or cabinet of random electronic junk. I have a box of zip drive components, floppy disks, and wires – so many wires. Every time I think about it, which is about once a year, I take that box to the local electronic recycling. And it makes me feel good. There are also free paper shredding services to help you get rid of the piles of paper that need to be thrown away. You could start a compost pile or vermiculture (indoor worm composting). A shout out to Cindy and her girl scout troop for coming across a great resource at Commercial Cleaning Dot Com (http://www.commercialofficecleaning.com/clean-up-earth.html). Check it out for some good information about recycling. Thanks for sharing girls
What can you reduce and recycle in your home
Woo hoo! Next week is Spring Break. Do you have fun plans for a week without school school? I’ll be headed down to the beach for day or two. You bet I’ll be turning off my lights and air condition before I leave. Make sure that all your lights at school are out before you leave for the week. And turn all the computers off. Imagine the cost if you leave them on for over a week. And don’t just stay inside and play video games all day, make sure to turn off the electronics and go outside.
What will you do to have fun and save energy this Spring Break?
Here’s to a day that only comes around once every four years. To people born in 2012 it’s the first time they can celebrate on their birthday. There are a lot of Sadie Hawkins traditions that go with leap day. Meaning that it’s ok for women to ask men out or propose on this day. While I don’t think I’ll be besieged by women, it is a good time to think about those things which only come up every so often. Like dusting off your ceiling fan to get it ready to use in the warmer weather. Or think about planting something near your windows to help keep the heat out during the summer. Or check your hot water pipes for leaks.
How will you use this special day to save energy?
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year everyone and welcome back. It’s going to be another exciting year. It’s a US Presidential election year, so energy will be a hot topic and you’ll be able to show off all the things you’ve learned. Also we have some great education events coming up. January 23 the Educator’s Event is at HMNS. There will be over 20 organizations from around the Houston area and over a score of presentations. It’s free, you’ll receive CPE credit, and, best of all, I’ll be there. Go here for more info. And if that wasn’t enough, there is another great opportunity in February. The Informal Science Education Association (ISEA) is having their annual meeting at the Houston Zoo. It’s a group of museums, nature centers, aquariums, conservationist, and general fun people. It’s a great way to see what informal opportunities are near you and a great way to form relationship with informal science originations. Go here for more info.
What resolutions did you make for the new year? Did you want to save more money and energy this year than last? Did you write your plan down so you can remember in a few months? You’re more likely to follow through if it’s written down and there is a plan of action. A great resolution is to plug all of your rechargeable cords into 1 power strip, so you only have to press 1 button to stop those energy vampires. Or you could look for sales on LED and replay our old light bulbs.
How will you change the world this year?
Try, Try Again
Everyone remembers December 17. It’s the day of the Wright Brothers first successful powered flight and the inauguration of the aviation age. But most people don’t think about what the brothers were doing on December 14. On that day Wilbur made the first attempt to fly, but it ended in failure and damage to the plane. The Wright brothers were not the first to try to fly. Man had be going up in hot air balloons for over a century. The work on the shape of an airplane was done in the mid-19th century. Samuel Langley was days away from achieving powered flight when the Wright brother flew. So why is December 14 important? It’s because the Wright brothers failed, they tried again.
It’s the same with energy conservation. Sometimes we don’t do all we can do. Sometimes I leave the coffee maker plugged in after I’m done making coffee. Your shocked, I know. But just because we mess up one day or don’t do all we can do, we don’t stop conserving energy. We pick ourselves up and try again, because every now and then we get to fly.
43 years ago the last manned mission outside of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) was launched. Apollo 17 was the last manned mission sent to the moon. There was a huge to plan to put manned bases on the moon and be to Mars by the 1990’s, but none of that ever materialized. Unfortunately due to economics, politics, and the promise of new technology we postponed our trips to other planets. Now new technologies, economics, and new political pressures might be able to propel us back out of our planets cradle. It’s now legal for American companies to mine asteroids and be able to keep what they mine, so now there is a new economic incentive.
You would think economics is big driver in the energy conservation movement as well. I spend a lot of time not only telling people about how much money they could save, but saving that money myself. Though many studies have shown that desire to save money isn’t the leading factor in energy conservation. The leading factor are your neighbors. If you see them doing or talking about how they do energy conservation, you’re more likely to conserve energy. On the flip side, if your neighbors see you practicing energy conservation and talking about it, they are more likely to as well. It’s sort of like getting a tow for one.
How will you show your neighbor you save energy and money?
33 years ago, Michael Jackson’s album Thriller was released. It became one of the bestselling records of all time. And the music video (what they used to play on MTV) became part of our cultural references. The music video is a whole 14 minutes long and directed by the same director who directed the movie An American Werewolf in London. In 2009 it became the first music video to be added to the Library of Congress. And many cities now do Halloween reenactments of the video. Think of the fun of zombies dancing down your street. The video and song were important because it lead to the breakdown of some race based barriers in music. How does all this have to do with energy?
Thriller helped changed peoples’ minds about music in a creative and fun way. And that’s what we need to remember to do when we are promoting energy conservation. It’s one thing to just yell at people to turn off lights when they leave the room. It’s a whole other world to get them involved in measuring which light bulbs are better or setting aside a reward if they are able to save a certain amount off the energy bill each month. Or to get kids involved in developing an energy plan instead of just telling them what to do.
How will you get people thrilled about saving energy?
One of my favorite things about the internet is the amount of free leaning opportunities and the ease of access. Back when I was a kid I could watch whatever documentary happen to be on PBS at the time. Know I can just type a subject in my browser and get free, post college educational courses. I’ve taken many courses through Corsera and can re-watch any of the lessons anytime I want. I’m still trying to get the location post-orbital fenestrae down.
And there are a lot of good energy sites! Offshore Magazine (http://www.offshore-mag.com/index.html) is a great site. In addition to having articles about current events, it has weeks of free videos that go into detail about oil field development, rig design, posters, news, and webinars. Supported by University of Houston, it’s a good site to get more information about the energy industry and the science behind it. A perfect way to spend time after the big meal on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone
How will you celebrate Thanksgiving and save energy
Back in 1965 the Venera 3 probe was launched. Sent for the USSR, it was the first man made object to reach another planet. That was 50 years ago. Think about how far the concept of space travel has changed. There are some of you reading this that have never lived at a time when people haven’t been in space. And think about how technology has changes since then. One thing that hasn’t changed is that it’s expensive to put things up in space. Therefore rocket scientist are great energy conservationist. If they can trim off a big of energy use here and there, they’ll need less batteries and that will lighten the load of the spacecraft. Maybe by only a little, but every little bit helps. If any of you have read or seen the Martian, there a lot of points where he has to manage his energy usage to survive.
So energy conversation is part of rocket science, but easy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know to turn off the lights in a room when he leaves. Or to turn off his computer when he goes home from work. So what rocket science will you use to save energy?
At the end of this week hundreds of science teacher will gather in Fort Worth for the Conference for the Advancement of Science Education (CAST). It’s like the SPECTRE meeting for science teachers. Although no crazy plots such as hypnotizing the world’s leaders secretaries to unleash a bacterial hoard that will kill all the chickens. That would be too crazy, even for a James bond movie. But the science teachers will get to look at the latest and greatest in science education, they’ll get to network, talk, and brainstorm together. And hopefully come away with some new idea in how to make their kids passionate about STEM. While you’re there make sure to drop by the HMNS booth in the exhibition hall. We always give out nice goodies. And if you want to drop by to say hi to me, I’ll be over at the Informal Science Educator’s Association tables. And I’ll make sure to turn off my lights and A/C before I leave for the conference.
How would you organize a large conference to save energy?
Happy Mother Teresa day! That’s right it’s the day to celebrate Mother Teresa and all that she has done. My favorite story of her was when she was walking with a journalist through the streets. The journalist took in all the poverty and hopelessness around him. He turned to her and said “You couldn’t pay me enough to help all these people.” I like to imagine Mother Teresa with a twinkle in her eye and small smile on her lips when she turned and said “Me too.” So do something good for someone else today and help them save energy. You could help you grandparents change out their old light bulbs. You could volunteer at school to make sure all the computers are shut down at the end of the day. How will you do a good work for someone else and save energy?
Lewis and Clark Day
212 years ago Lewis and Clark set off on their expedition to explore the Louisiana purchase. President Jefferson had just doubled the size of the country and was sending out a mapping/diplomatic/scientific exploration team to see what was out there. Unlike astronauts they did not have to take everything with them. They knew they would be able to get food and water along the way. They took only what they could not replicate in the wilderness. And that’s how we should think of energy. What do we really need. I don’t need 7 chargers all plugged in at the same time, I only need the charge plugged in when I’m charging. I get my morning coffee at work, so don’t need my coffeemaker plugged in for 5 days out of the week. I don’t need my computer on while I’m away from it. And all these things I keep unplugged save me money and electricity. What are the few things you have to have plugged in and what can you do with out
I hope everyone survived last week’s weather. And I hope everyone had a good Father’s Day. It’s a relative recent official holiday. The celebration of fathers in America goes back to the 1910 and the push to have a day set aside for mothers. Everyone realized that if you have a Mother’s Day, you need a father’s day, but it wasn’t until 1972 it became an official national holiday. My favorite part about the parent’s days is that the older I get, the smarter they get. And what better way to celebrate Father’s Day then to apply some classical fatherly wisdom from Ben Franklin. Diligence is the mother of good luck – so keep on saving energy and look for new and exciting ways to do it Little strokes fell great oaks – the things you do have a cumulative effect, so don’t think the small things you do don’t make a difference A penny saved is a penny earned, so lest save some energy and earn pennies.
Happy World Oceans Day
Today is the World Ocean day across the world. The seas serves as a good litmus test for the health of the planet. The oceans are at the very base of the food chains and are downhill from everywhere. So how can you help save the Oceans and save energy? A big thing is to stop using plastic bags such as the ones from grocery stores. Once the bags are thrown away, they break down into microscopic plastic bits and end up in the ocean, where they are eaten. As the plastic climbs up the food chain, it concentrates more and more with the potential to make some seafood toxic to people. When you leave your house turn off the lights and turn up the air-condition. When you use less electricity, less pollution is produced. Pollution that would end up in the oceans. How will you save the oceans and save energy
May the Fourth Be With You
Happy Star Wars day all my young padawans. Today we’ll talk about how to make light savers and fight the phantom load menace. As you know the second largest portion of your electrical bill goes to light your home up. The easiest way to save money is to turn off the lights. When you leave a room, turn off the lights. If you’re not in the room than you’re not using the light. If you have lamps, use them. Lamps use less energy than the larger light fixtures. When the bulbs burn out replace them with higher efficiency bulbs, like LEDS. You all should be aware about the phantom load menace. When you have any device that is plugged in and has an instant on, it’s always using a little electricity. But if you have more than one device that’s plugged in, it can start to add up. If I leave my coffee machine, cellphone charger, TV, microwave, and gaming station plugged in all the time, I might be spending $40 a year on devices that I’m not using. To fight this Phantom all you have to do is unplug or plug everything into a power strip and turn the power switch off. What force will you use to save electricity this week?
Everyone Loves Their Mummy
There was a wonderful lecture on Egyptology last week. Dr. Kara Cooney talked about the reuse of coffins for Egyptian mummies. She said it could be like a parish coffin, or a rent a coffin, but some of the coffins seemed to be passed down through the family. And that got me thinking, what things can I reuse around the house? I reuse the plastic bags I get to carry things (lunches, good will donations, etc) or I could use them to make plarn and weave a bag together. I could use old newspaper as packing material or to line the cage of a bird. What household items can you reuse in interesting ways?
Happy Earth Day Eve
Unlike some other holidays, earth day has no traditions about the day before. There are no stockings to be put out, on dressing or dessert to be made. So let’s start some of our own traditions for Earth Day Eve. Make some no bake cookies and share them with neighbors. Do a candle lite walk outside after dark. Walk to dinner. What traditions can you come up with to celebrate the day before Earth Day and save energy doing so? Let me know
Today is a day that is full of innovation. The first elephant was brought over to the American colonies in the 18th century. Today is the day we celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the most attended art museum in the USA, was founded. It’s the birthday of Robert Watson-Watt, the inventor of radar. Today the crew of Apollo 13 had to start thinking fast and outside of the box to bring their spacecraft home safely. And today the first satellite navigation system was put into orbit. In that spirit I think we should dub today Innovation Day. Take some time to think about what would make the world a better place and save energy. Do you think of super conducting electrical transmission wire or a smart power grid? Do you think of motion sensors connected with each light so they will automatically turn off if no one is in the room? Or made a app to automatically tune the lights and temperature to your comfort level when you enter a room and then turn everything off when you leave? What innovation can you think of today?