GCC 3027/5027

two people stargazing from the roof of a car with powerlines in the background

Power Systems Journey: Making the Invisible Visible and Actionable

An energy revolution is underway, and needs to accelerate to support climate and economic goals. But the general citizenry does not understand our current energy systems, particularly the seemingly invisible phenomena of electricity, and its generation, distribution, and use. Technical knowledge is only half the solution, however. It is through human decisions and behaviors that technical solutions get applied and adopted, and the importance of communication and storytelling is being recognized for its relevance to making change. How can science literacy and behavior-motivating engagement and storytelling be combined to help make systemic change? This course explores the integration of science-based environmental education, with art-led, place-based exploration of landscapes and creative map-making to address this challenge. How do we make electricity visible, understandable, and interesting -- so we can engage citizens in energy conservation with basic literacy about the electric power system so that they can be informed voters, policy advocates, and consumers. In this class, you will take on this challenge, first learning about the electric power systems you use, their cultural and technical history, systems thinking, design thinking, and prior examples of communication and education efforts. With this foundation, you will then apply your learning to create a public education project delivered via online GIS Story maps that use a combination of data, art, and story to help others understand, and act on the power journey we are all on. All will share the common exploration of power systems through field trips, and contribute to a multi-faceted story of power, presented in a group map and individual GIS Story maps. No prior knowledge of GIS story maps or electricity issues is needed. The study of power systems can be a model for learning and communicating about other topics that explore the interaction of technology and society toward sustainability.