Energy Choices Board Game

Energy-related issues are particularly relevant to today's students. The limited supply of fossil fuels, combined with detrimental environmental effects associated with energy use, are dictating dramatic changes in the way we harness and use energy. An educational program that provides students with the ability to critically analyze and problem solve will prepare them to interpret energy issues and make sound actions and choices, as voters, consumers, and professionals.

A board game has been developed by students and staff from Clarkson and St. Lawrence Universities as part of their NSF-funded K-12 Project-Based Learning Partnership Program. The game is used to introduce the concepts of energy use in our lives and the very real impact that personal choices can have on our energy consumption, energy bills, and fuel supply.

The game begins as each student selects cards that define their mode of transportation and home design. The players roll dice and move around the board, landing on "choice" or "situation" blocks and selecting cards that describe consumer choices and real life events that impact their energy consumption and annual energy bills. As the players pass gasoline stations or energy bill gates, they must pay annual expenses as defined by their original cards, with amounts altered by the choices they've made along the way. Gasoline cards are collected to represent their total consumption. Too many gas guzzling vehicles can result in total depletion of their gasoline supply - at which point everyone must walk or ride the bus.

The game provides some context for serious classroom discussions about our current energy situation. Discussion points can include:

  • How did the choices you made affect how much money you had at the end?
  • Which home system wound up with the most money at the end? Why?
  • Which car wound up with the most gas cards at the end? What do you know about this type of car? (big, gas guzzler) How did having a lot of gas cards affect the owner's financial state?
  • What do you think the carbon tax you paid at the end of the game represents?
  • Why did gasoline and home energy prices increase throughout the game?
  • Do you think this will be an issue in our own lives?
  • Did any teams run out of gasoline cards? What does this represent? Which type of transportation contributed most to the depletion of gasoline cards?


Curricula and assessment findings from the Project-Based Learning Partnership Program have been presented and published in many venues.
  1. Powers, S.E., “Editorial - Environmental Curricula and assessment findings from the Project-Based Learning Partnership Program have been presented and published in many venues. Engineering Professionals Needed for Educational Outreach.” Journal of Environmental Engineering, 126(10): 891, 2000.
  2. Powers, S.E., and J. DeWaters, “Introducing Environmental Problem Solving as a Means of Increasing Interest in Science and Engineering.” American Chemical Society CONFCHEM conference (July 2001). Powers, S.E., “Preparing College Students to Teach an Environmental Problem Solving Curriculum to Middle School Students.” In: ASEE 2003 Annual Conference Proceedings: Staying in Tune with Engineering Education. (Nashville TN, June 2003).
  3. Powers, S.E., M. Graham, T. Schwob, J. DeWaters, “Diversity in K-12 Initiatives to Attract a Diverse Pool of Engineering Students.” In: Proceedings of the Frontiers in Education Conference, (Boulder CO November 5-8, 2003).
  4. Powers, S.E., J. Dewaters, “Creating Project-Based Experiences for University- K-12 Partnerships.” In: Proceedings of the Frontiers in Education Conference, (Savannah GA November, 2004, on CD).
  5. Dewaters, J., S.E. Powers. “Improving science and energy literacy through project-based K-12 outreach efforts.” In: Proceedings of the 113th Annual ASEE Conference & Exposition (Chicago IL June 2006, paper number 2006-262)
  6. Dewaters, J., S.E. Powers, M. Graham. “Partners in Engineering: Outreach efforts provide holistic engineering education for middle school girls.” In: Proceedings of the 113th Annual ASEE Conference & Exposition (Chicago IL June 2006, paper number 2006-1471)
  7. Dewaters, J., S.E. Powers. “WIP: A Pilot Study to Assess the Impact of a Special Topics Energy Module on Improving Energy Literacy of High School Youth.” In: Proceedings of the 35th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (San Diego CA, Oct 2006).
  8. DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers and M. Graham, “Developing an Energy Literacy Scale” In: Proceedings of the 114th Annual ASEE Conference & Exposition (Honolulu HI, June, 2007, session AC 2007-1069, on CD).
  9. Turner, P.R., K Fowler, D Wick, M Ramsdell, G Gotham, E Glasgow and C French, “BOCES-University Partnership as a model for Educational Outreach: K-16 STEM Professional Development”, Math & Science Symposium, Knoxville TN, October 2007 (with Proceedings published on CD)
  10. Owens, J., J. Matthews, “CyberCivics: A Novel Approach to Reaching K-12 Students with the Social Relevance of Computer Science.” Proceedings of the 39th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, March 2008.
  11. Powers, S.E., B. Brydges, P. Turner, G. Gotham, J.J. Carroll, D.G. Bohl “Successful Institutionalization of a K-12 - University STEM Partnership Program.” In: Proceedings of the 115th Annual ASEE Conference & Exposition (Pittsburgh PA, June, 2008, on CD, Session # AC 2008-1652)
  12. DeWaters, J., S.E. Powers, “Energy Literacy among Middle and High School Youth.” In: Proceedings of the 36th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (Saratoga Springs NY, Oct 2008, Session TA1-11)
  13. DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers, “Using a Real-world, Project-based Energy Module to Improve Energy Literacy among High School Youth.” In: Proceedingsof the 116th ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, paper AC 2009-231 (Austin TX, June 2009).
  14. DeWaters, J.E., S.E. Powers, “SOLAR 2009: Development and use of an energy literacy survey.” In: SOLAR 2009 Conference Proceedings, 38th Annual meeting of the American Solar Energy Society (May 11-16, 2009, Buffalo, NY, paper number 0099).
  15. DeWaters, J.E., and S.E. Powers, “WIP:  The Relationship Between Energy Education and Energy Literacy – the Potential Benefit of Reaching a High Level of Rigor and Relevance.” In: Proceedings of the 39th ASEE/IEE Frontiers in Education Conference, San Antonio, TX, (October 18-21, 2009, paper number 1112).
  16. Powers, S.E., J.E. DeWaters, “Energy Systems and Solutions,” (an eight-lesson, 8th grade science curriculum), TeachEngineering Digital Library, 2009. (winner of 2009 Premier Curriculum Award for K-12 Engineering)