The kids’ grid

Cutting the ribbon at Kid Grid’s opening in June.

Looking for an engineer? Help may be on the way with the ABB-sponsored Kid Grid – as long as you can wait until about 2040.

Kid Grid, a new and interactive exhibition at the Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, North Carolina, opened at the beginning of June, in another initiative to stimulate even the youngest children’s interest and awareness of electricity and science in general.

Displays cover topics from how power is generated to electricity distribution, usage and energy saving. There are sections on renewables and smart grids, to help cultivate an appreciation for energy efficiency from the earliest age. Among instructional “games” on hand are electric mini cars and (child-sized) hard hats to mimic the life of a real electrical engineer.

Learning about power (and safety) from a young age.
Learning about power (and safety) from a young age.

The seven-year-old museum was established to stimulate learning and problem solving among children through hands-on displays. Its name – “marbles” is a slang term for brainpower – hints at its mission.

Young people’s declining interest in science and technology is a hot topic among educators, executives and politicians in the US and Europe. The trend has been accompanied by lackluster educational results in many western countries and, as a result, increasing staffing issues for science-based companies.

US demand for highly skilled works in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, is already surpassing supply. STEM Advantage, a California-based non-profit lobby group, reckons jobs requiring such skills will rise by nearly 17 percent over the next 10 years.

STEM has become a big theme politically. Kid Grid’s opening came just days after President Barack Obama hosted the fourth White House Science Fair part of the government’s attempts to boost STEM education. “Our job is to make sure you have everything you need to continue on this path of discovery and experimentation and innovation,” Obama said.

Employers have been as concerned. Attending the Kid Grid opening, Greg Scheu, Chief Executive of ABB North America, reminded visitors of industry’s need for “highly skilled individuals with a passion for these subject areas.”

ABB donated $1 million to create Kid Grid – the largest single grant ever received by Marbles – and the input was not just financial. Kid Grid was shaped partly by the industry’s leading edge at ABB, whose engineers and families worked alongside museum staff in the initial design phase by discussing ways to get children thinking about energy. Professional guidance continued through actual design and construction to ensure Kid Grid resembled the real thing. The display includes child friendly cables, control systems, motors and transformers, as well as genuine ABB equipment.


“For the last year and a half, we’ve been working on this concept together with Marbles, to really look at an interactive place where kids can come and learn about technology,” Scheu said. “And what we have here is a place to have fun and learn how a grid works, choices you can make on energy, renewable power, and smart choices for energy use.”

Marbles is focused on young children of up to 10 years, as its supporters believe that reaching them even before high school age can help to plant the early seeds of a potential career in engineering, technology or science. Time will tell if Kid Grid nurtures the Edisons and Teslas of tomorrow, but early indications are that the young visitors are having fun – a crucial start. After all, once a youngster’s interest is electrified, the rest may be child’s play.

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About the author

Ilona Braverman

I am the Newsroom Manager with the corporate communications team. Prior to moving to Zurich, I spent over a decade writing, producing, marketing and production coordinating for Fox News in New York City. When I am not working, or enjoying all of the beautiful cities around me, I am busy dancing, cooking or probably making everyone around me howl with laughter.
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