Ryan Elementary students run their own electric company with POWERrace
Fourth graders at W.S. Ryan Elementary School in Denton were greeted Thursday by a large, unfamiliar board game laid across multiple tables at the center of their classroom. The magnetic board, depicting city streets, utility poles, and 3D-printed buildings, was CoServ’s trademarked board game, POWERrace®, and served as the capper to a 9-week lesson plan on electricity and circuits.
“The POWERrace game is kind of like a Monopoly game about power companies,” said Randy Copeland, CoServ’s Energy Education Lead. “They read over these cards—these Chance cards could be good, could be bad. It’s just things that happen at a power company every day.”
For more than 11 years, CoServ has used POWERrace to teach students as early as fourth grade about electrical currents and how to manage a cooperative. The game board features numerous hand painted structures and businesses, including a sports stadium, church, hospital, and fast-food restaurant. To win, teams must route power via spools of colored lines to the most buildings while managing their money wisely.
“My favorite part about the POWERrace game is how kids get to experience working together as a team,” said Justin Porterfield. “No one ever has the same exact idea of what they want to do with their moves, so they learn by listening—actively listening—to the other teams’ suggestions, and then making a decision on where they want to go.”
“It was really fun,” said Charlotte Jones, who was on the winning team. “If we spent the money, then we wouldn’t be able to win as well, and if we saved too much money, would have to spend it at one point or else we wouldn’t be able to move anywhere.”
The game is hands-on and requires every member to participate to thread the power lines from one utility pole to another because a dropped line or toppled pole will result in repair costs. As teams advance across the board, they occasionally cross over POWERrace cards which, like Monopoly’s Chance cards, can bring either good news (additional earnings) or bad news (repair costs).
One group who excelled was the Blue team, whose strategy, communication, and teamwork helped them amass more than 20 buildings and $52,000 in revenue.
There are many strategies to consider along the way: do teams spend $3,000 on transformers to bury lines underground? Do they aim for the larger, more lucrative buildings near the middle of the board? Or do they keep their costs down by targeting above ground utility poles for $1,000 and snatch up as many of the lower-cost buildings as possible?
“I love watching them and their ideas and their strategies that build up—especially when they come from fourth grade to fifth grade, on their second round,” Justin said. “They come back, their eyes light up [and] they know exactly what they’re doing. They work out that strategy and they have a little bit more fun and learn a little bit more each time.”
Throughout the game, CoServ’s Energy Education Team asks the students questions to help guide their thinking, applying real world application and problem solving to not only keep them engaged but teach them about concepts like electric load and which buildings and businesses are given higher priority, such as hospitals.
“I see the challenge in the kids, and I see the camaraderie of the kids trying to come together to make one big decision,” said Energy Education Specialist Alfonso Williams, who serves as the game’s banker. “It’s hard for young kids to make decisions as it is, so when you get a group of kids coming together to make a decision, that’s pretty wonderful to me.”
If you’d like to book your own POWERrace experience for your classroom, you can request a presentation here.