Explore Renewables: Carbon Mixer is a reinterpretation of a professional software tool for the construction and planning industry, into an engaging learning software for secondary students that raises awareness of environmental construction issues and promotes careers in the renewable energy sector. Taylor continued to develop Narec's "Explore Renewables" agenda through this commission to create a learning tool for secondary students based on Carbon Mixer - a successful energy accounting tool created by Bobby Gilbert & Associates (BG&A) to help architects and planners quickly generate ballpark cost estimates for different energy and carbon dioxide strategies. Consulting with a small working group of secondary school teachers and the software developers at BG&A, Taylor explored different approaches to the repurposing of Carbon Mixer's functionality through wireframing, selecting for development a narrative-based approach that exploited the full potential of a new .Net development platform. Taylor's selected approach utilised the existing professional context of the existing software by creating a simulated work experience game, providing additional real-world context that teachers had identified as missing from the standard curriculum. Realistic energy calculation challenges, characters and "plotlines" for six real-world client scenarios were designed in collaboration with the environmental building specialists at BG&A, and dialogue was created to drive a simulated Client Chat window providing constant feedback on (and added complications to) the student's progress in a format familiar to them from social networking sites. The software was piloted with a class of "gifted and talented" students, who responded positively to the game-style format and expressed a new interest in careers in the renewables industry. Many of the design features proposed by Taylor, including new approaches to visualising Carbon Mixer's technical data and the chat-style feedback system, are being considered by BG&A for inclusion in the next iteration of Carbon Mixer for Professionals, with Carbon Mixer for Schools now functioning as an effective primer to the full software for commercial users.
|Place of Publication
|Tyne and Wear
|National Renewables Energy Centre
|Accepted/In press - 2010