Cycle 2 & 3
Although capturing energy through solar panels to save and convert into usable electricity is nothing new, it has not been until recently that its potential to overtake normal means of energy generation has been acknowledged (Caughill, 2017). We have seen the benefits of solar power for years, yet until trendy and influential companies such as Tesla have introduced products like solar tiles, solar energy has still been regarded as somewhat unrealistic (Wylde, 2017). Tesla has made its case for renewables and produces desirable products, stepping into the consumer market to positively make solar energy the norm.
My Studio III project Hydrogen Homes is an educational toy set aimed at introducing and developing an interest in renewable energies within children. Hydrogen Homes fits into a niche market of alike toys because of a demand for more complex toys teaching children the ins and outs of todays technology (Whitten, 2016). Designer toys such as Cubetto (Morby, 2016) and the Alchemist Matter Kit (Howarth, 2014) tackle coding and chemistry in such simple and innovative ways that children become enthralled with the subjects. Much like Hydrogen Homes the child is not exposed to the entirety of the area at once, but instead introduced to the basics and it slowly becomes a part of their little world. These successful educational toys don't over load the child with information, instead giving just enough to spark curiosity and get the questions rolling.
As a result of Hydrogen Homes’ aim and approach to teaching sustainability I believe that it sits under the umbrella of an integrative approach to teaching called STEAM. Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics all being key components of interaction within the project (STEAM Education, 2017). “STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century!” (EducationCloset, 2017). STEAM is an important means of teaching for future generations of problem solvers, I believe that Hydrogen Homes has the potential to be a critical tool in this area.
Rather than tackle just the one dimension of sustainability I realised that there was also the opportunity to challenge more than one aspect of sustainability. More specifically our environment and the ecosystem. The glasshouse addition to the wooden house is inspired by creating the perfect ecosystem within a terrarium. The Compass Green Project directed by Justin Cutter is a self funded “school garden on wheels. It is a fully functional greenhouse built in the back of an 18ft. box truck that grows vegetables, grains, and herbs and is powered by waste vegetable oil. We teach practical farming tools and raise awareness on sustainability through presentations, workshops, and greenhouse tours at schools, and events across the country. We feel that everyone, regardless of demographic and age should have access to sustainability education and delicious healthy food.” (Cutter, 2017) By taking this standpoint with Hydrogen Homes I am able to teach the importance of ecosystems as well as insulation. Showing that they do go hand in hand, much like in Stockholm where a family has successfully wrapped their home in green house to keep it warmer throughout the year (Dirksen, 2015).
While working through the process of iteration and developing the project I found that Hydrogen Homes has played a major part in researching the area. Preconceived ideas of renewable energies were an element that I was able to explore with previous prototypes. Therefore I believe it has become a multifunctional tool for the exploration of learning and research within sustainability.
My fascination with renewable energies and the concept of bringing them to the public were my key driving points behind Studio III. Having the ability to capture, store and power our lives with natural sources such as; solar, wind and water energy is amazing. My goal of creating an excitable attitude within the wider community was motivated by questions such as; How can I show the irrefutable advantages of renewables to the public?
While Studio started with the much wider scope of overpopulation, sustainability and housing, throughout a research report in cycle one I was able to explore the possibilities and gain an appreciation of renewables and their part in the future of sustainable living. Very naturally my aim evolved into an educational view, the future of our planet is in the hands of its youngest generation, and power continues to be a vital resource we take for granted so it made sense to take this standpoint.
Deciding to tackle the lack of knowledge and understanding surrounding renewable technologies resulted in the creation of the educational tool Hydrogen Homes. In doing so I will be able to challenge the preconceived ideas and thinking in children and parents through the collaborative toy.
With two main parts to the toy, two very different types of physical interaction can be taught. The electrical plug and play element presents its self first, naturally as the projects main focus. Then the contrasting terrarium comes into play.
The first part of the toy is the assembly of the house and its electrical components. These pieces simply click into place, while the male and female attachment system of the house works in exactly the same way as the plug and play electrical components. The components are also colour coordinated, making it easier and intuitive for the child to understand and play with. Once the house and renewables are assembled the results can be seen instantly. The solar panel and circuit works to detect the light and once below a certain threshold will activate the lights. This works in favour of a night light, the house could sit on the child’s window sill during the day to charge the battery and instantly light up at night.
The second part deals with the terrarium. Assembly works in exactly the same way and the wooden house is seamlessly integrated within the larger acrylic house. Unlike the renewables, any planting done within the glass house will take time and results wont be instant. This is an important contrast as the physical hands on difference between wires and earth are so different to a child’s senses. Having a child take their time to plant seeds is an important part of the project as it engages the child for longer and develops ownership within the child over the project.
Of course without the initial investment from parents and caregivers introducing Hydrogen Homes to children would not be possible. In recent events Green Peace have called for a ban on taxing solar energy. “Solar power is one of the fastest growing clean energy sources in the world - but our ability to use it in New Zealand is under threat. Big energy companies see solar as a threat to their profits and their control of your power. Right now they’re moving to cut it off. Their first move is the new solar tax in Hawke’s Bay which penalises people who have solar panels. We must push back before that spreads nationwide and tell the Electricity Authority to Say No to the Solar Tax.” (Green Peace, 2017). With solar energy currently in the spot light it would make sense for parents to be motivated to invest in Hydrogen Homes as a movement towards a more sustainable future.
Caughill, P. (2017, June 18). As Cost Plunges, Solar Power is Ready to Surpass Coal. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://futurism.com/as-cost-plunges-solar-power-is-ready-to-surpass-coal/
Cutter, J. (2017, April). Compass Green Project. Retrieved May 15, 2017, from http://compassgreenproject.org/
Dirksen, K. (2015, November 10). Stockholm family wraps home in greenhouse to warm up weather. Retrieved March 12, 2017, from https://faircompanies.com/videos/stockholm-family-wraps-home-in-greenhouse-to-warm-up-weather/
EducationCloset (2017, May 23). What is STEAM? Retrieved June 21, 2017, from http://educationcloset.com/steam/what-is-steam/
Green Peace. (2017). PETITION: STOP THE SOLAR TAX. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://act.greenpeace.org/ea-action/action
Howarth, D. (2014, November 27). Laurence Humier's Alchemist Matter Kit teaches basic chemistry. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from https://www.dezeen.com/2014/11/27/laurence-humier-alchemist-matter-kit-chemistry-kickstarter-education/
Morby, A. (2016, March 09). Cubetto is a wooden robot that teaches children how to code. Retrieved February 07, 2017, from https://www.dezeen.com/2016/03/09/cubetto-primo-toys-preschool-children-coding-programming-wooden-robot/?li_source=LI&li_medium=bottom_block_1
STEAM Education. (2017). STEAM Education. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://steamedu.com/
Wylde, K. (2017, June 05). Solar Power Has Finally Proven That It's The Energy Source of the Future. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from https://futurism.com/solar-power-has-finally-proven-that-its-the-energy-source-of-the-future/
Whitten, S. (2016, February 19). Tech, gadgets & toys: 5 trends from NY Toy Fair. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/19/tech-gadgets-and-toys-trends-from-ny-toy-fair.html