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Mystery solved: Sherlock ‘Homes’ event teaches energy-saving skills for all ages
By DAN ROBLEE droblee@mininggazette.com ~ The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - Local families detected drafts, insulated ice cubes and learned to save cash with energy saving smarts during the Sherlock "Homes" Energy Detective event Tuesday at Portage Lake District Library.

The idea was to make kids more aware of the energy they use, and get them into the habit of making energy-saving choices without parental prompting, said Joan Chadde, who organized the event.

Cheryl Kiley, who attended with her 6- and 8-year-old sons, agreed that energy smarts are valuable at any age.

"(Kids) should start learning early, because they can be very wasteful," she said. "The younger they start, the better."
The event was presented by the Western Upper Peninsula Center for Science, Mathematics and Environmental Education - Chadde's organization - along with the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team and Michigan Technological University.

Chadde said presenters at the event included two students from her Communicating Science class at Tech and one student from the Houghton High School Environmental Club.

The kids said some of the clearest lessons came from the Pay-Me game, where each member of the family got a stack of play money, and either paid it to the Pay pile - money toward bills - or the Me pile, depending on their answers to energy use questions.

"I learned to save money by not taking a long shower," said Christina You, 10.

"I learned to not use a portable heater," added Eleana Tsenova, citing one of the most expensive devices on the list.

One more tip, according to Tech student Cory Burkwald, who led the activity: "With your dishwasher, let dishes air dry."

At the draft-o-meter table, Tech forestry student Tilley Behrman helped students build the devices, crepe paper strips that will move when drafts come in around the edges of windows or doors.

Her favorite, though, was the final event, where families teamed up to create insulation containers for ice cubes and then recorded how much water resulted from the ice cubes melting when placed next to the heater.

"I thought it was fun that the kids get to go through the engineering process," Behrmann said. "It helps to have an idea, talk it out, prototype it, rather than just throwing it together and hoping it works."

They'd had a crash-course in insulation ahead of time at a station led by HHS sophomore Megan Harma, where they were able to try out a few potential insulating materials placed over ice packs.

Houghton Energy Efficiency Team Energy Manager Melissa Davis was on hand showing off a Kill A Watt meter.

"You just plug it into the wall (and the appliance or device), leave it for a day or an hour, put in your electricity price, and it'll show you what you'll pay," she said.

Chadde lit up three lamps to compare three different 60-watt equivalent bulbs, and explained that the incandescent would last about 1,200 hours, the CFL fluorescent bulb about 10,000 hours, and the LED 25,000 hours.

The light bulbs must have been turning on in the kids' heads, too, because Chadde was enthusiastic about their response.

"They get it," she said.

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