Each day, the building responds to natural phenomena such as rain and wind, and these elements further influence the behavior of the students. For this reason, sensor data alone will not provide answers about how to improve the comfort and efficiency of a building. Rather, long term gains in energy efficiency will be achieved through teaching students to become better stewards of their school, understanding how their own actions correspond to measurable changes in the environment.
The technologies behind TerMITes and Electronautes should be considered tools for scientific inquiry, much like microscopes or telescopes. Through a series of workshops and interactive sessions, students in the school were encouraged to develop their own hypotheses about how environmental changes impact human behavior.
In addition to working directly with students, the project also promoted collaboration with Andorran institutions, including the University of Andorra and Formació Professional (Vocational Training Program). The University of Andorra was involved in training the school’s teachers to use the sensors and understand the measurements, and also provided examples of potential educational applications. To measure the learning curve as students were exposed to new concepts related to sensing and technology, they were surveyed before and after the development of the Electronautes project to see how their knowledge and understanding changed through that experience. Students from Formació Professional built a server cluster used to process statistics and visualizations of data collected by the TerMITes. A series of blog posts created by teachers at the school highlighted some interesting possibilities for further investigation, such as understanding the relationship between carbon dioxide at the classroom scale and at the global scale. For instance, by observing changes in levels of CO2 in the classroom, students saw that their actions could also impact CO2 levels worldwide.
The Electronautes project strives to bring researchers and their work closer to elementary school students in a way that is tangible and approachable. In working with researchers visiting the school, students were asked to expand their minds. “If you had a magic sensor that could show you things you can't see with your eyes, what would you look for with it?” Through work with the sensors and the students, the researchers also gained an understanding of their work that expands beyond environmental measurements and includes children as participants in their energy future.
Regardless of interests, aptitudes, or cultural backgrounds, students are able to engage and understand their impact on their environment, and also how the space around them influences their comfort and mood. Juanita Devis, a researcher on the project, said, “I think the future of education should focus more on ‘learning how to learn,’ to enable students and people to acquire, interpret, and advance knowledge to address current and future needs. I envision a future network of experts, reachable worldwide, that can support this learning process and guide everyone to create their own learning experience.”
The Electronautes experiment will continue for the coming years, and as the children learn and adapt the technology to their needs, we will understand more about their learning process, and see what novel discoveries they might have.
TerMITes (sensors): Carson Smuts, Jason Nawyn
Electronautes: Juanita Devis, Núria Macià (Fundació ActuaTech), Luis Alonso
Electronautes Web application: Juanita Devis, Núria Macià (Fundació ActuaTech), Jason Nawyn
Escola Andorrana d’Andorra La Vella: Bruno Bartolomé, Albert Maluquer
Teaching the Teachers and Learning Curve: Cristina Yáñez (UdA), Florenci Pla (UdA), Núria Macià (Fundació ActuaTech)
Data Analysis: Josep Ribó (FP), Vitor Fernandes, Carles Serra, Marc Jorge (FP students), Núria Macià (Fundació ActuaTech),
Aleix Dorca (Universitat d'Andorra), Marc Pons, Marc Vilella, Oriol Travesset, Guillem Francisco (OBSA), Josep Ribes (FEDA/Fundació ActuaTech), Xavier Forné (FEDA), Vanesa Alcántara (Universidad del Pacífico), Maggie Church, Kent Larson (MIT).