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Game lets kids explore alternative energy
[November 16, 2012]

Game lets kids explore alternative energy

NORMAL, Nov 16, 2012 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Owen Senn, 7, of Bloomington rolled a ball at the hydroelectric station in the new energy challenge game Thursday night at the Children's Discovery Museum. He knew it had something to do with energy but beyond that -- it just felt good on his hand.

His older brother, Buster Senn, had almost made it through all six stations at the standalone exhibit and gave it a thumb's up.

"I like it," he said. He also knew it was designed to teach kids about electricity and pollution.

That's about what museum Manager Sheila Riley expected.

"The young kids are going to like the lights, action and audio," she said. "It's got manipulatives, joysticks and buttons." But, she said, it's also going to attract the kids age 8 and older.

"That's what we're looking for -- attracting an older audience. We get middle school-age kids coming with their family. This will give them something to do," she said.

The $175,000 energy challenge game is the first phase of the "You've Got the Power" exhibit that eventually will replace the "Oh Rubbish" exhibit on the second floor later this month. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant covered two-thirds of the cost, and other sources included $20,000 from Commerce Bank and $10,000 from an Indiana donor-advised fund.

A few kids, including members of Boy Scout Troop 38, got a sneak peak Thursday night. It will open to the public the day after Thanksgiving.

"This activity requires collaboration, communication and critical thinking -- several components identified by educators as a necessary 21st century skill set for young people," Riley said.

It also goes hand in hand with the museum's environmental commitment. The museum building was constructed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver status and added rooftop solar panels last year.

The energy challenge game allows children to choose the source of power for the city that sits in the middle of the structure: wind, gas, hydroelectric, oil/petroleum, solar, and coal.

When the power source is filled up, the user can send it to the power distribution center to be distributed throughout the city, which includes such Twin City landmarks as State Farm Insurance Cos. headquarters, Illinois State University's Watterson Towers and Redbird Arena, U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Normal's Uptown Circle, and, of course, the Children's Discovery Museum.

Riley said with each energy source comes the pros and cons, which are listed on panels at each station. An arrow lights up to show the energy growing but another tracks how much pollution is produced by that energy source.

If too much pollution is produced, the system shuts down.

If enough energy is produced without too much pollution, all the buildings light up, the cars go around Uptown Circle and lights atop of the exhibit start blinking.

Julia Senn, Owen and Buster's mother, was impressed.

"The boys have a lot of questions about windmills," she said. "This is great because they get to see how they work." Senn agreed that the buttons and gadgets will draw in the younger children but the exhibit also will attract the kids "who want to know how things work." Get charged up What: Debut of the new Energy Challenge game When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 23 Where: The Children's Discovery Museum, 101 E. Beaufort St., Normal Cost: Free with paid admission to the museum ($6 per person age 2 and over) ___ (c)2012 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) Visit The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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