Summer Energy Camp Excites Students about STEM and Renewable Energy

The third year of FLATE’s summer energy camp was a huge success with the highest attendance ever and feedback from both teachers and students overwhelmingly positive! Thirty 7th and 8th grade students from Beth Shields and Pierce middle schools were treated to four days of exciting, hands-on activities centered on capturing and keeping their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects – specifically renewable energy. By participating in the camp, students also learned about the diverse and exciting careers available in the field of clean energy.

Camp participants were part of Hillsborough County School District’s AVID (Advancement

Via Individual Determination) Excel program, consisting of first generation college-bound, English language learners. This year marked the first year, two schools participated in the camp, with Pierce Middle School bussing in students daily from Tampa to join Beth Shields Elementary students who have been attending since the camp first started in 2011. This year’s camp schedule was abbreviated to avoid issues with bussing and student transportation and to eliminate attendance problems experienced in previous years. Two AVID teachers from each school also attended with the students daily.

This year’s new camp instructor, Kyla DonLevy, (currently an environmental sciences and AP biology teacher at Durant High School), brought her enthusiasm and obvious love for STEM subjects to the camp and had a great rapport with students. Kyla has made a full-circle FLATE journey as she participated in one of FLATE’s professional development workshops focused on renewable energy two years ago at the South Shore Campus and this year returned as a camp instructor!

The amazing activities the students participated in this year included making solar stills and

solar cookers (unfortunately the sun didn’t cooperate but we still managed to make s’mores and some partially cooked pizza rolls!), charging student cell phones with solar panels, mining for fossil fuels, and learning about hydropower and wind power. On the second day of camp TECO hosted students for an incredible tour providing them with the opportunity to get a close-up look at the power plant that is right in their back yard.

On the final day of camp, students raced hydrogen-fueled cars and were given a fabulous “Green” tour by Shiela McCants, student services manager. Hillsborough Community College’s SouthShore campus is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver-certified by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), and boasts an earth-friendly, energy-conscious functionality incorporating a number of sustainable features. These include solar panels, a rainwater recycling process, maximum use of natural light and a raised-floor HVAC system that provides greater efficiencies for cooling. It was great to be able to show students that HCC is practicing what it preaches!

Students’ feedback from the final camp survey illustrated strongly how much they learned

about energy while at the same time having fun. Student comments included, “The experiments we did were a magnificent experience for an 8th grader, ‘We got to be creative and at the same time learn something, ‘The thing I like about energy is we do these awesome projects of energy.” One hundred percent of the students said they learned new things about energy and 95% stated that they felt the camp would help them making future career choices with over half saying that they would consider a career in clean energy.

Teachers’ comments included, “I really liked the hands on activity for each day. It got the kids very involved and kept them interested all the way through,” “I really liked the hands on activity for each day. It got the kids very involved and kept them interested all the way through”. FLATE hopes to offer the energy camp again next summer with the possibility of adding a high school version in Plant City.

For more information on the camp and curriculum, and/or education and training materials related to alternative/renewable energy technologies visit and You can also contact Nina Stokes, project manager for FESC at

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