The Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh has taken on the challenge of creating a smart grid for kids – the Kid Grid – to introduce children ages 3-10 to smart grid concepts.
The museum recently received a $1 million gift for the exhibit from ABB, a Switzerland-based smart grid engineering company with a Raleigh presence, to be paid out over the course of seven years. To accommodate the exhibit, the museum is expanding its footprint by 900 square feet, and Wake County is paying that cost up front through a loan of up to $700,000, says Marbles Kids Museum CEO Sally Edwards.
“What we really didn’t want to do was say, ‘We’re going to wait ’til we have all the money.’ Because the time is now,” said Edwards. “It still will be in seven years, but we need to expand capacity.”
In order to help introduce the community’s children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, the museum staff invited ABB employees to bring their children to the museum to play with electronics. Edwards says the museum staff was able to learn first-hand what smart grid technology is all about.
So what’s the process?
First, the shell of the building addition is construction, and that’s being handled by the county.
At the same time, the exhibit designers and fabricators are collaborating. The exhibit itself will be built in Seattle’s Pacific Studio. There, it will be tested by focus groups, then deconstructed.
The second part of the process is shipping the exhibit pieces to Raleigh and having a team from Seattle assemble it.
Until then, the museum staff anticipate handling things they didn’t account for during the planning, which they say is part of the fun.
“We don’t prescribe an outcome,” says Edwards. “Every child learns in his or her way. You still cannot predict what any child is going to do with something that is tested and tried.”
The overall hope, Edwards says, is that the Kid Grid opens the dialogue between children and parents about how we use energy, and boosts the confidence of children when it comes to engineering in academics.