Learning Energy Systems is a research project aimed at actively reducing energy use in school buildings. It seeks to redress the fact that, while most school-aged children have the ability to learn and demonstrate low energy awareness and behaviour, they are rarely involved in decisions on how energy is used.

Led by Dr Kate Carter, an architect with practical experience of energy modelling and working with school children, the research is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the Research in the Wild / Digital Economy programme. Work began on the project in October 2013.

Bridging the gap between buildings, energy and people

Most methods of digitised energy management cannot respond to the unpredictable way in which people use buildings. The Learning Energy Systems project uses interaction design and machine learning to bridge the gap between buildings, energy and people and better understand patterns of demand and use.

Central to the project is the development of a digital system for aligning human needs and comfort with building energy systems. Unlike most energy reduction projects, the work aims to address the issue from an intuitive and responsive perspective rather than the dominant, penalty-based approach.


“I can see myself taking this (web dashboard) as a start… you mention a little bit of it, and it opens up topics like LEDs, renewable energy sources. It gives us an extra resource to use.”

Physics teacher at an Edinburgh High School

Children and teachers at the heart of research

The project has developed ‘living labs’ in schools across Scotland. School children and teachers have been at the heart of the research: as sensors of conditions; as drivers of energy demand; as individuals; and as a collective. 

By giving children, in particular, a ‘voice’ in how limited resources are used, it is envisaged that attitudes and behaviour towards energy will be changed in the age group with the biggest potential for impact across society into the future. The project links closely to Maths and Science Curriculum for Excellence areas and connects to responsible citizenship, sustainability and social studies.

Digital devices designed to help children understand and manage energy use were premiered at an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April 2015. Our mobile application launched at the Scottish Learning Festival in Glasgow on 24th September 2015.

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