Beth Shields Middle School Students Get a Taste of Renewable Energy Technologies

Search and research for renewable and alternative energy sources are at an all-time high. Now more than ever there is a widespread need not only to educate, but be educated about renewable and alternate energy sources, and its long term impact on our environment. As part a coalition to help Florida meet its 2020 energy strategy, FLATE—the National Science Foundation Regional Center of Excellence in high-tech Manufacturing—has developed a number of initiatives to educate and train students as well as educators at the local level about energy production and consumption.

Most recently, FLATE in conjunction with Hillsborough Community College South Shore campus in Ruskin, FL, hosted its second energy camp. During the camp, 25 students from Beth Shields Middle School in Ruskin, currently enrolled in Hillsborough County’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program learned about renewable energy technologies and its application in our everyday lives. Students learned about fossil fuels, their environmental impact, and the science of electricity generation. They also learned about solar cells, solar thermal energy, wind energy, environmental care, fuel-cells, home efficiency and ocean energy.

According to Nina Stokes, camp coordinator and project manager for FESC (Florida Energy Systems Consortium) “the activities brought complex concepts to life in a fun and exciting way, and helped campers get excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” Hands-on activities included constructing and testing windmills for electricity generation, building solar cookers and hydrogen fuel cars. . The activities were fun, yet challenging, and were geared to enable students to make real-life connections. “As the production of renewable energy continues to grow, camps like this help educate tomorrow’s citizens about issues that will directly impact them/their environment in the future" Stokes said

Indeed, campers as well as educators raved about their experience. Nearly 70% of the campers strongly agreed they liked the camp, and 75% strongly agreed they learned new things about energy at the camp. "I like science," said Emely Ramirez. She added "we get to make things that help us understand better. It's interesting and makes me think I might want to be a scientist." Brian Sanchez, another camper agreed. He said he likes technology as it is something that will prepare him for college.

FLATE’s energy camp is part of a network of energy camps that were offered simultaneously at Tallahassee Community College, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and Brevard Community College. The camps were made possible through a partnership between FLATE and FESC which is a consortium of Florida universities established by the Florida Legislature. FLATE and FESC also collaborated with the National Science Foundation-funded Energy Systems Technology Technicians (EST²) project team to design a new specialization for the engineering technology degree and associated college credit certificate. The EST² project team comprised of individuals from Brevard Community College, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Tallahassee Community College and Hillsborough Community College.

Dr. Marilyn Barger, executive director of FLATE says “FLATE’s partnership with FESC is part of a statewide initiative to support industries in the existing and emerging energy sectors by defining the knowledge and skills required for their technician workforce.” With support from industry and partnerships with the Florida Department of Education, and the Banner Centers for Energy, Alternative Energy, Manufacturing and Construction, Barger hopes “to build a comprehensive and cohesive educational and industry pathway that will lay down Florida’s future in renewable energy.” For more information on the energy camp contact Nina Stokes at 813.259.6587/stokes@fl-ate.org, or view a news clip of the camp that was aired on Bay News 9 in Tampa, FL. For information on FESC contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at 813.259.6578/barger@fl-ate.org.

Watch a news clip about FLATE's energy camp that was part of the evening news cast on Bay News 9