By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
Maybe a cute polar bear can do what all the good green intentions in the world canít: Get people to consistently conserve energy.
Thatís what the Brooks School, a North Andover boarding school for grades 9-12, is counting on with an animated animal that lets students ďseeĒ their energy consumption in real time. Instead of showing students what energy they are collectively using in each of the schoolís ten dorms with graphs or digital numbers, a ďbear-o-meterĒ displays it more visually on a public screen with the bearís well-being tied to how well students are conserving.
For example, when energy use is low, such as early in the morning, the bear is asleep and happy. But as energy use rises as students turn on computers, televisions and music devices, the ice can begin melting under the bearís paws Ė and if energy use really peaks Ė the poor bear falls in and flails in the open water.
Developed by a Dartmouth College professor and former students, TellEmotion is designed to tug at the heartstrings to motivate behavior to conserve energy. Iíve written here about how hard it can be to act green: Just think of the difficulties in running regularly - and that is just one behavior. Going green involves everything from shorter showers, remembering to turn off the lights, letting Mother Nature dry your laundry and maybe even leaving the car behind.
Brooks is the first high school in the country to use the product in its entirety (itís also being used in some Dartmouth dorms).
ďHopefully students are learning behaviors they will take with them the rest of their life,'' said Brian Palm, science department head of the school. Students will also use the energy data to study best ways to reduce energy usage to discussing carbon footprints.
The concept is an interesting one. Itís reportedly worked well at Dartmouth Ė TellEmotionís website says plug load and lighting in the dorms with bear-o-meters initially dropped between 13 and 21 percent. They are to report soon on whether those numbers are being sustained.
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