Students Engineer Energy-Efficient Houses

A group of students who built a cube house wrapped in plastic wrap and lined with aluminum foil had some surprising results. One student described the group's design, "We used the idea from the computer model of convection being able to circulate [heat]. That made us use extra enforcement on the top. We were shielding our house from winds. The Saran wrap trapped heat."

A second team member added, "I didn't think the plastic wrap would work. I thought it would melt. Then I remembered this stuff is used to keep food heated. I think the Saran wrap really helped." And the third team member said, "Yeah, that model showed how easy it was for heat to leak out of the house. I thought to myself, 'When we make our house, it will be the best.'"

Indeed, the house performed unexpectedly. When the "sun" (desk lamp) was shining in the house, the temperature rose—and continued to rise. One of the students said, "I had no faith that we would be able to do this. Then I saw it working and I thought, 'Cool. We're doing something right.'"

The students all agreed, "I'd definitely do it again. It was a fun project."

We'll pilot test our curriculum and software again in another Massachusetts school in May. And we hope students there have as much fun—while learning about energy efficiency.

Learn more about the Engineering Energy Efficiency project »

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