The University of Southampton

How many quiz contestants does it take to save a lightbulb?!

Published: 12 December 2011

An energy quiz which tests people's knowledge of the amount of energy used by devices and processes, such as lights on the Christmas tree, has been developed by researchers in ECS-Electronics and Computer Science, at the University of Southampton.

A team led by Dr Alex Rogers of the Agents, Interaction and Complexity research group developed The Energy Quiz for BT. The "game with a purpose" is intended to challenge BT employees to test their knowledge about energy.

The online quiz invites players to compete by answering 12 questions about energy comparisons. For example, it asks: which uses more energy - a Christmas tree with 100 lights continuously lit over the festive period or a dishwasher used once a week for month; or it compares heating water for a typical office for a year with a full Boeing 747 flying 400 miles; or heating a typical office for a day versus driving a car 100 miles.

BT has invited 200 employees to play the game and will roll it out to a further 3,500 in the next phase. “For us this is a way of conserving energy and we are finding that there is a deficiency of knowledge about energy among our employees,” said Simon Thompson, BT Chief Researcher. “We have also found that this kind of knowledge is often dull for people and they are not too interested in the statistics, so if we can encourage them to play a game around energy, it makes it more fun.”

According to Dr Rogers, The Energy Quiz can be tailored to specific work or home environments. With the release of an updated version worldwide this week, he plans to analyse the data to explore people’s misconceptions about energy.

“Our informal results so far show that people have a lot less intuition about energy than you would think,” he said. “People think that home consumption is always higher than driving their car to work and they often assume that appliances in the foreground that make a lot of noise or generate heat use more energy over the course of a year than something hidden away in the background.”

The Energy Quiz is one of a whole host of tools to monitor energy being developed at ECS. Dr Rogers and his team have also developed a range of tools to visualise the real-time carbon intensity of the UK electricity grid and they have developed tools for building energy monitoring. They are also developing computerised agents that can negotiate the charging of electric-powered cars in the most efficient way.

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