Vampire power really sucks energy

Jun 6 2011 - 9:38am

PULLMAN, Wash. -- A team of Pullman Christian School students has accepted a Washington State University challenge to lead the world to a brighter future -- but with a lower wattage.

Under the Imagine Tomorrow program, WSU's problem-solving competition that asks high school students to use innovation to lead the transition to alternate energy sources, the Pullman Christian team decided to share some of what they had learned with children and parents at the Palouse Discovery Science Center Saturday.

The topic they chose was vampire or parasitic power -- the power consumed by electronics when they're not even being used -- and how preventing unnecessary energy consumption can save big bucks for parents.

"There's a huge vampire craze, right now," said Gailynn Benjamin, 17, who competed in this year's competition, which rewards the best teams with prize money for students and their schools.

Benjamin said vampire power seemed more attractive to the young crowd at the science center, "as opposed to standby power -- not nearly as cool as vampire power."

The team used that focus to compete in the 2010 competition, where they faced a panel of judges along with 25 other schools competing in four categories: technology, design, multidisciplinary collaboration and behavior.

"We didn't make it into the top four, but we did make it into the top eight," Benjamin said, adding her team was working in the behavior category of the competition.

The Pullman Christian team will continue to work on the challenge of educating people about vampire power and trying to correct their behavior toward energy conservation again this year.

"Once you hit 30, it becomes really hard to change your habits, but while you're young it's easier to build habits and break bad ones," Benjamin said.

And fellow team member Peter Taylor, 17, agreed that the opportunity to reach young minds was available at the PDSC.

"This is the first time we've kind of showed this at a science center," he said.

A number of interactive stations were set up inside the science center, including a trivia game where children and parents could guess the annual cost of standby power consumption for popular electronic gadgets and appliances. By turning a dial to the number that corresponded with the device on the board, participants were able to find out that a desktop computer costs $10 in standby energy consumption a year.

"If there's lights on it, it takes energy," Taylor said, pointing out a similar station where participants could turn a dial to see the consumption difference between older devices compared to their newer, more energy efficient counterparts, from televisions to dishwashers. "Kids aren't going to be too interested in dishwashers."

Acting as a sponsor for the Imagine Tomorrow program, Avista Utilities donated kilowatt meters that the Pullman Christian team used Saturday to show how much energy was still being consumed by electronic devices when plugged into an outlet. An older-model PlayStation 3 consumes 180 watts continuously, Taylor said, while the new, thinner models only consume 60.

Benjamin's father, Francis, who is also a parent supervisor for the team, said he is proud of the work she is doing, and knows the program could open doors for scholarships and internships for his daughter in the future.

"They'll actually accomplish things that we say you can't do," he said of the young, innovative minds moving around the science center. "She's changing the world with her ideas."

Brandon Macz can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 237, or by email at

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(c) 2011, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

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