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Feel Free to Sleep at School... If You're a Computer! *

Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability Readily available
Cost Very Low (under $20)
Safety No issues
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


Sleeping in class isn't allowed... unless you're a computer! In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that putting your school's computers to sleep when they're not in use might reduce a school's energy bill significantly. In a study done at the North Thurston public schools in Olympia, Washington, EPA officials worked with the district to cut computer energy and costs by approximately $45,000 annually! How? By implementing a variety of power-management strategies for the district's 4,000 computers. The EPA defines power management as a series of features available on current Windows and Mac operating systems that "place monitors and computers (CPU's, hard drives, etc.) into a low-power 'sleep mode' after a period of inactivity. Simply touching the mouse or keyboard 'wakes' the computer and monitor in seconds."

Would implementing power management at your school save energy and money? How much? What power-management settings would be best for your school? Are there any down sides to the various power-management settings? Do some background reading about power management, then gather the information you need, like the number of computers in your school and when they're used, and try the free calculators in the Bibliography to estimate energy and cost savings. How similar are the estimates from the various calculators? Is it worth trying power management at your school? Can you convince your school administrators, based on the results from the calculators? If your school does switch to power management, see if you can determine how accurate the calculator estimates were. One rough estimate would be to ask school administrators if they can help you compare energy usage between this year and the year before. Note: Make sure you're comparing the same months, as energy usage often fluctuates with seasons, too.


Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies

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MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Feel Free to Sleep at School... If You're a Computer!" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/CompSci_p040.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 23). Feel Free to Sleep at School... If You're a Computer!. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/CompSci_p040.shtml

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Last edit date: 2014-10-23


The details of the North Thurston Public School District case study can be found here:

An overview of what power management is and how to apply it can be found at:

This resource has a freely available energy calculator for deciding if power management makes sense and how to implement it:

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

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