August 11, 2017

The Game

Photo by Renewable Cities.

The electricity we are using right now was generated just a moment ago in a power plant hundreds of kilometers away. To make this happen, our electrical power system is controlled so that our demands are matched at all times by an equal amount of generation. Maintaining this balance is a challenging task, particularly as we move toward much greater utilization of renewable energy resource.

Megawatts and Marbles transfers the challenge into a playful workshop to be experienced hands-on.

Game Play

  • Several teams (each 4-10 players) compete for building the greenest system
  • Players play different power plants, each operating according to different rules reflecting their physical constraints
  • Players in each team need to work together to meet the varying electricity demand
  • In 10-20 minutes play time we simulate a 24 hour day
  • Two rounds of playing allow players to learn the rules and then simulate a better future system
  • We keep track of the score to see which team is doing best
  • Lessons learnt are discussed in thorough debrief sessions, paths to a greener energy future are being discussed.

Why Megawatts and Marbles?

 The goal of the game, which is run as a 1.5 – 2 hour workshop, is to promote energy literacy and to foster informed discussion of energy systems.

Rather than simply talking about the topic of energy systems, the physical models of the power plants trigger immediate interest with children and adults, as both enjoy playing. Teachers and instructors have provided feedback that the game can sustain the attention of young students, triggers questions, and supports active learning. One teacher commented that some of her students were excited enough about the game that they mentioned lessons learned during the workshop half a year later. Older audiences value the hands-on experience, and the clear way the complex interplay of different physical constraints in the power system is displayed. Moreover, playing the game facilitates the discussion of future energy scenarios based on the experience of real-life physics, rather than personal preconceptions.