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Readers ace a test on energy issues

Lehigh’s new STEPS building is part of a multidisciplinary initiative to tackle problems in energy and the environment. Alec Bodzin, a STEPS-affiliated researcher in the College of Education, devised a survey to test eighth-graders’ overall knowledge of energy issues.

Two months ago, we asked members of the Lehigh community to put their egos in check and take a short quiz on energy literacy.

The eight-question online survey was based on the Energy Resources Knowledge Assessment, a questionnaire developed by Alec Bodzin, associate professor of science education in the College of Education.

Bodzin’s questionnaire tested American eighth-grade students’ understanding of energy acquisition, generation, storage, consumption and conservation.

Nearly 750 of you accepted the challenge. Thankfully, you did Lehigh proud and passed with flying colors.

Of the eight questions, only one was answered incorrectly by a majority of respondents: “Which uses the LEAST ENERGY in the average American home in one year?” About 47 percent of you wrongly answered, “Lighting your house.” The correct response, given by just 24 percent, was “Entertainment, such as TV, computer and video games.”

Only two other questions presented problems.

When asked, “Which type of electricity generation has the LEAST ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT?”, only 47 percent correctly replied, “A geothermal power plant in a hot earth area.” Nearly the same percentage answered, “Wind turbines on the top of mountains.”

And while 48 percent correctly said coal was the fossil fuel formed from swamp plants that lived millions of years ago, 28 percent said it was petroleum or crude oil. Methane and natural gas were other popular—and incorrect—replies.

For the most part, though, a significant majority of quiz-takers answered all the other questions correctly.

The original questionnaire was modeled on specific energy literacy goals set forth by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and other prominent education associations and agencies.


Photo by Douglas Benedict

Story by Tom Yencho

Posted on Friday, April 22, 2011

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