The Carbon Game: Engaging Young People in a Low Carbon Manufacturing Future

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Institute of Energy and Sustainable Dev


This project aims to develop an understanding of low-carbon manufacturing in a group of young people that will add to their enthusiasm for living sustainably to inform the next generation of scientists and engineers for a low-carbon UK economy.The project will work with up to a thousand young people who will attend a week long Woodcraft Folk youth festival in August 2010, called Venturer Camp 2010. The theme of the festival is 'Futures - Fashioning a New World' and the project will address the science and engineering behind the various technologies used at the event. Engagement will take the form of helping develop a game for the event to model a 'carbon economy' and highlighting the role of manufacturing in the transition to a low-carbon society. Academics will engage with the young people when they are devising, developing and delivering the festival. The experience gained will inform plans for similar youth engagement activities at future events.Planning and running the festival will be the responsibility of the Woodcraft Folk with assistance from academics via the engagement project. The Woodcraft Folk steering committee will establish carbon budgets for the festival which will either be on an individual or collective basis. The thousand people will be camping in groups (villages) of about one hundred people. Carbon budgets will therefore be set for individuals or villages. The young people will need to travel to the festival, eat and take part in activities throughout the week (cinema, music stage, cafe, information tents, showers, etc). The electrical power will be provided by renewable energy (solar photovoltaic and wind). During the festival, all the activities will be monitored as part of the carbon game (i.e. carbon footprint, number of people attending, electrical consumption etc). Electrical power generated, imported and exported for each power generator area will be recorded and used to present the operation of the electric power grid. Hot water will be provided partly by solar thermal and partly by biomass. The festival could then be said to be model a future society, meeting basic needs of food and shelter, whilst also addressing leisure and work/education related activities.In recent years it has been difficult to interest young people in manufacturing as a career. To environmentally aware young people, their strongest perception of industry may be as a major cause of climate change rather than an essential part of our sustainable future. The project will introduce manufacturing concepts as an integral part of the activities of a youth festival and there will be manufacturing experts available to enter into a dialogue with young people at the festival. There will be a practical focus on the role of manufacturing in the transition to a low-carbon society.The Factory of the Future at Sheffield's AMRC has been designed to be a carbon-neutral factory building, and is powered by two wind turbines and a ground source heat pump. With the help of AMRC staff, ideas will be developed for communicating low-carbon manufacturing concepts in a manner that is appropriate to a youth festival. Prof Shao and Dr Greenough will communicate ideas generated by a TSB project (THERM) which aims to create a software tool to help design low-carbon factories. The project researcher will work with the steering committee as they devise the carbon budgeting scheme, the rules of the game and the provision of food, power and hot water at the festival site. The researcher will work with the AMRC and others to develop ways to communicate low-carbon manufacturing concepts to young people. Lastly, the researcher and investigators will engage with the festival goers.This is a unique opportunity to work with young people in an enjoyable environment in which they will learn about greener living and develop a greater understanding of the role of manufacturing engineering in the UK's transition to a low-carbon society.

Planned Impact

The main impact of the work will be on 1000 young people aged 17-21. They will have a far greater understanding of the role of manufacturing and engineering and the part that they could play in the UK's transition to a low-carbon society. They will have an understanding of the carbon content of the goods and services they consume during the festival and elsewhere and the contribution to mitigating climate change that can be made by low-carbon manufacturing. Young people aged 21-25 will be helping to organise and run the festival. They will benefit through the experience of organising the event, helping to design The Carbon Game and considering more deeply the implications of the game and the manufacturing issues discussed at the festival on a future low-carbon economy. Woodcraft Folk leaders will benefit from the assistance offered by the project team in the organisation and running of the festival as well as the creation of resources and a fund of expertise to be used in future such events. The engagement project will allow young people to correct any inaccurate perceptions they may have of manufacturing engineering and will help them to decide whether engineering may be an attractive and suitable career choice for them. For those young people who decide not to pursue a career in engineering, the impact of the engagement project will be in the form of better-informed consumers and citizens. At the festival itself, the young people will engage with the media and decision makers to explain how they see future low energy scenarios in the UK and the role that manufacturing could play. Workshops will be held during the festival to discuss the different possibilities for carbon reduction through the activities of industry and the impacts of climate change. The festival will therefore provide an opportunity for young people to improve their communication skills, particularly in subjects related to a low-carbon economy and the role of manufacturing engineering in this. Competition between village teams will raise the awareness among young people of the value of energy and the relative carbon costs of consumption of a range of goods and services. The impact of this upon the young people will be a greater preparedness for a future low-carbon economy and the skills to explain this to other young people. The impact upon the academic community at De Montfort and Sheffield Universities will be increased skills in public engagement. These skills will be available for use in future engagement activities of this kind, thus increasing the quality and impact of these activities. An important future impact is on engineering curricula. The project will help academics to re-design the engineering curriculum and how it is delivered to make it appear more exciting and relevant to their potential customers, who are probably aged 12-17. A long term impact of increased knowledge of and enthusiasm for low-carbon manufacturing will be a generation of young people available to assist the UK's transition to a low carbon economy. The UK government estimates that over 1 million people will be employed in the low-carbon environmental goods and services sector by the middle of the next decade. These are skilled jobs, with the average market value per employee well above the national average. This sector is one of the few areas of the economy expected to maintain positive growth through the downturn and is expected to grow by over 4% per annum up to 2014/15. Communicating with young people about the opportunities for exciting careers in this sector is essential to the UK's industrial future. A successful engagement will be ensured by close liaison between the researcher, the investigators, the Woodcraft Folk steering committee and technical specialists during Phases 1 and 2 of the project. Here, communications will mainly take the form of discussions during minuted meetings.


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Description The Carbon Game was a public engagement project, and as such it was not intended to discover new knowledge in the manner of other RCUK funded projects. Nevertheless, some new insights were gained:
1. The environmentally-aware young people with whom the project was designed to engage did not demonstrate the antipathy towards manufacturing industry that was expected, and seemed both to accept the importance of manufacturing and be genuinely interested in its role in a future low-carbon economy.
2. The posters used on the summer camp seemed to be a much less effective method of communication than the workshops, although the carbon calculator generated the highest enthusiasm so far and seemed to best develop the understanding of the target audience.
3. The balance between education and enjoyment is a difficult (but essential) one to strike in this kind of public engagement project, because public participation is voluntary.
4. The adjustment of price lists at the summer camp according to embodied carbon of the items on sale was educational but ran the risk of being perceived to be unfair and having a negative effect.
5. The main legacy of the project is a carbon calculator, but other legacies are a set of posters with product life-cycle information, experience of price fixing to model a low-carbon economy and valuable experience of public engagement with young people.
Exploitation Route Carbon calculators are a powerful way to relate decisions that we take in our daily lives to emissions. However young people have relatively little scope to change their behaviour in order to reduce emissions, since their parents' decisions dominate the emissions that can be related to young people. Conventional carbon calculators designed for adults are less relevant for young people, and those that are tend not to include embodied carbon. The experience of the design and use of the novel carbon calculator used during this project might be useful to others who seek to engage young people in the subject of embodied emissions. The calculator itself might also be further developed by others.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology