Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Smart Grid @ Illinois Goes to the State Fair

Power utilities have been rapidly installing smart grid technologies on a large scale, and many in the public have questions about why this is happening and what it means for them. In addition, many people are eagerly looking to the day when renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind power, can play a larger role in our lives, reducing our consumption of both domestic and foreign fossil fuels.

To help inform the public about the state of these technologies and how the University of Illinois is helping to develop them, Smart Grid @ Illinois researchers from ITI are exhibiting at the 2012 Illinois State Fair, which is being held in Springfield, Illinois from August 9 through 19.

TCIPG education coordinator Jana Sebestik talks with young fairgoers.

“Carnival rides and food booths are fun, but the State Fair is much more than that. It offers a tremendous range of exhibits about all sorts of things people are doing throughout the state: agriculture, the arts, industry—you name it,” says Alfonso Valdes, the Managing Director of the expanding “Smart Grid @ Illinois” research efforts housed in the Information Trust Institute (ITI) at Illinois. “We’re happy to be part of that. We’re presenting fun and interesting resources to help both kids and adults understand the power grid and how it’s changing. Much of the time we’ll have power engineers from the U of I there in person to explain the displays and answer questions.”

Tim Yardley (l.) and Tom Overbye (r.) of the University of Illinois explain part of the exhibit to David Vaught (c.), acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Among other exhibits, the researchers are presenting some of the power equipment used in their work, including a smart meter and a solar panel. There is a station where visitors can explore middle-school-level educational applets developed by ITI’s Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) Center to help people learn about various power and energy topics. Classroom-ready curriculum materials for teachers will be available. 

The Smart Grid @ Illinois exhibit is being presented as part of the Illinois Energy Zone at the State Fair, in coordination with the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension’s Energy Education Council. “We’ve been doing public outreach for several years, but this is our first time at the State Fair,” says Valdes. “We’re really excited to be there and have the chance to meet with people in such a fun atmosphere.”