UCCI Course Description

Electric Avenues

Overview Course Content
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
College-preparatory Elective (G) - Interdisciplinary
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Energy, Environment, and Utilities
CTE Pathway
Energy and Power Technology
Grade Level(s)
10 - 12
Recommend completion of physics


In this capstone course, students tackle challenging assignments that require not only that they utilize what they learn about energy throughout the course, but also their reading, writing, critical thinking, math and science skills. Throughout the course, students learn about the current grid and how electricity generation and usage are regulated and managed. Students develop an understanding of “Smart” solutions proposed for the grid and those available for use in the home, and learn not just about the benefits of energy sustainability, but also about the environmental and financial costs of green solutions.

What students learn about energy efficiency and storage, the governmental regulations that apply to energy production and energy use, our efforts at producing and storing energy sustainability, and the environmental impact of each of these aspects of energy production and consumption culminates in a final assignment in which students produce energy proposals for the elementary schools in their district. Throughout the course, students work collaboratively with each other and with energy industry mentors in various capacities, and, when possible, use current industry tools to perform energy audits and prepare reports.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Jump Start

Unit 1 Description

In this unit students, develop and refine presentation and group project skills, as well as learn the energy conversion process in order to understand the amount of energy that goes into lighting something as simple as a single light bulb. This work provides the foundational understanding of energy generation that students will need in order to complete the various projects and assignments that lead up to the capstone project of the course.

Make It Glow

Students will be given a light bulb, a dc generator and a variety of items (a mouse trap, rubber bands, balloons, etc) they will need to use in order to build an energy conversion device. Working in teams they will create a device to light the bulb. Each team will present their final device, and each will be evaluated on the duration of time the light bulb stays lit. The class, under the direction of the teacher, measures the efficiency of the winning bulb--the bulb that stayed lit the longest. This task helps prepare students for the work they do later in the course around energy efficiency.

Unit 2 : Gridlock

In this unit, students learn about the current grid and how electricity generation and usage are regulated and managed. This unit covers the structure of the grid, and current inefficiencies associated with the grid. Students will learn how the electrical grid was formed, how it functions, and how operators get information about how the grid is functioning. This is foundational knowledge the students will need to understand how electricity gets from the grid to consumers.

Written Research Paper or Presentation

Paired with industry/scholarly researchers currently exploring Smart grid solutions., students prepare interview questions and interview the industry/scholarly researcher with whom they have been paired Re: limitations to our current grid and Smart grid solutions the researcher is exploring and the challenges of implementing such a solution. Students present the results of their research in a written paper or in a class presentation.

Unit 3 : Smart Solutions

Using the class textbook as well as information from other appropriate sources, students develop an understanding of Smart solutions proposed for the grid and those available for use in the home.

Smart Grid PSA - Via a presentation from an industry mentor as well as through individual research, students compile information they use to develop a PSA to encourage consumers to get on board with supporting the development of a Smart grid.

Home Energy Audit - Working with an industry mentor, students will produce a report on the energy usage at their own home, including such information as:

  • how much energy the home currently uses
  • what the major energy consumers are in the home (e.g. refrigerator, TV, washing machine, AC)
  • a breakdown of cost by device
  • identification the improvements that would have the highest potential payoff

Smarten Up! Proposal - Students research Smart technologies and write a proposal to implement Smart technologies in their home. In addition to the written information included in the proposal, the proposal should also contain at least one visual element (e.g. chart, graph) to help the client (parent or guardian) understand the information the student is presenting. Students present this proposal to a parent or guardian, who signs off on the it as evidence that the student presented the information to them.

Unit 4 : The Cost of Smart Solutions

In this unit students will use their critical reading, research and analytical skills to understand not just the benefits of energy sustainability, but also the environmental and financial costs of green solutions. The assignments in this unit will provide students with a context for making the recommendations they will make to their energy audit clients in Unit 5.

Research Essay: Environmental Impact Paper

To gain a deeper understanding of efficiency as it applies to power usage, and to understand the environmental impact of not only the various energy efficient household items students learned about in Unit 3, but also common green energy solutions, students write a research essay in which they describe the environmental, financial and economic impact of one Smart home product and one green energy solution.  

The report presents students’ analysis first, of a comparison between a Smart product and its less efficient alternative, and second, an examination of the hidden costs of one green energy solution.

Unit 5 : Energy Solutions

Students will use the skills developed through this course to create an energy audit for a local elementary school (or other entity). They will draw upon their knowledge of energy efficiency, storage, regulations, sustainability, generation, grid, and environmental impact, as well as their understanding of how to work in groups, communicate with clients and present information to produce an energy proposal that will outline recommendations to reduce energy use and maximize savings for their clients. Students will be working with industry representatives and when possible using current industry tools to perform the audit and prepare the report.

Preliminary Energy Audit:

Working in groups with an industry representative, students will perform an energy audit of their high school. Each group will be responsible for auditing a specific area of the school. After the audit, the groups reconvene and compile their data as a class. The final product is a presentation in which students make recommendations to the principal about a change the school should make in each area in order to be more energy efficient, reducing both costs to the school and impact on the environment.

Comprehensive Energy Audit:

Students, working in groups of approximately 5 students each, perform an energy audit for a local elementary school (or other entity). Each group is responsible for performing an audit on one school--or other entity if there are not enough local elementary schools to accommodate the number of student groups. This project is large in scope and comprehensive in nature. It is composed of the following key assignments:

A. Written Project Overview:

To prepare to do the energy audit that forms the capstone project for this unit and the course as a whole, students as a group write a project description, including overview, working timeline and group organization (student assignments). Because the audit must take into account such considerations as needs assessment, external organizations and regulatory commissions, scheduling site visits and other meetings, and other factors, each student in the group will be responsible for handling one of these portions of the audit.

B. Contact Log:

Groups will be required to keep a detailed log of contacts with clients, mentors and group members including: synopsis of discussions, action items, problems, resolutions and due dates. For ease-of-use purposes, groups may want to use something like Google docs, which updates in real time, but teachers may suggest any platform they or their students are most familiar with.

C. Energy Audit and Corresponding Research Assignment

Industry representatives serve as resources to student groups as they perform their audits at each school site. At the completion of the audit, students compile the appropriate data, not only from their audit, but from the corresponding research each group member was responsible for providing (e.g. regulatory agencies that would come into play based on changes students might recommend; other agencies the school would need to work with beyond the power company to make the changes). The assignment is assessed using a rubric that includes thoroughness of research; quality, authenticity and relevance of actions identified; data calculations, and other possible areas at the discretion of the teacher.

D. Written Project Proposal:

Each group composes a comprehensive document outlining their recommendations based on the audit. These recommendations will include such components as:

  • Changes students recommend
  • A cost/benefit analysis of proposed changes.
  • Potential funding sources for the changes.
  • A timeline for completion of the project based on agencies involved, optimal time of year to make the changes, extensiveness of recommendations, and other such factors.
  • List of other agencies (e.g. regulatory) that would need to be involved.
  • To help the client understand the data and the recommendations, the report will include charts, graphs and visuals as appropriate. Students submit the report to their industry mentor who provides feedback on suggested changes to align student recommendations with industry standards.

E. Final Presentation:

Student groups deliver a multimedia presentation (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc) of their comprehensive energy audit and proposed solutions to an audience composed of their client as well as peers, parents, and other stakeholders. This presentation will include visual components and a printed executive summary that the client would keep.

F. Client Satisfaction Survey:

Students, using an industry-specific survey template, create and distribute a client satisfaction survey to be completed by those at the elementary school. This survey data is used in the final assessment of students’ final grade on the assignment.

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