Sunday , August 7 2022

The student ambassadors offer K-12 students free tuition in clean energy and DIY solar kits

UW graduate student Abbie Ganas volunteered as a clean energy ambassador and led a virtual class on Google Meet with 25 middle school students enrolled in a middle school in South King County. (Courtesy Abbie Ganas)

In a normal spring, dozens of Washington University science students would step up their visits to schools in the Seattle area to teach K-12 children all about energy, including solar energy, batteries, and smart grids.

The children "actually see science in action," said UW chemistry professor David Ginger. "You realize that it's not just a dry textbook, but that it lives and breathes."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed education out of the classrooms onto the Internet, the UW ambassadors for clean energy are also switching to distance learning. In response, a program from the UWs Clean Energy Institute (CEI) has strengthened his at home, K-12 curriculumthat is available free of charge to teachers, parents and students. It contains:

  • Videos, lesson plans, information on DIY solar kits and reading material for higher classes
  • Sign up for Teachers plan free virtual visits from UW students students who take 30-45 minutes
  • Teachers and parents can request free kits for building solar powered cars and wind turbine-like “solar spinners” while supplies last
  • Links to buying your own kits and videos produced by UW that methodically guide children through their assembly

"Children are very aware of energy," said Ginger, chief scientist at CEI. "Maybe it's the Seattle area. It gives me a lot of hope for the future. They want to learn more about renewable energy and clean energy solutions. It's a catch to get them into science."

David Ginger, chief scientist and chemistry professor at the UW Clean Energy Institute. (CEI photo)

Since the UW has expanded its virtual lessons, only a few schools have so far registered for the visits. Abbie GanasThe doctoral student in chemistry, molecular technology and nanotechnology recently completed a distance learning course at a middle school class in Seattle.

In a video conference, Ganas, who has been volunteering for the outreach program for three years, explained solar cells and her own research Manufacture diamonds for quantum technology. Ganas not only teaches the basics of energy, but also wants to show the students that not all scientists correspond to the outdated stereotype of older, white men along the lines of Albert Einstein, but also young, queer researchers.

"There is a face to who a scientist is," they said.

Ganas was happy to find a lot of engagement with the audience during the remote visit, which may have made it easier for shy children to raise a virtual hand. On a personal level, they enjoy the insights and questions that children share during class.

"I'm getting away and looking at my own research from a different perspective," said Ganas. "It's refreshing."

CEI receives financial support from the State of Washington, including funding for the K-12 outreach program.

Erin Jedlicka, a graduate of the UW Clean Energy Institute, taught a live lesson on energy science before COVID-19 sent the students home for distance learning. (CEI photo)

Schools will finish their summer vacation lessons in a few weeks, and Ginger is considering other ways to reach children. The Pacific Science Center in Seattle has offered and sold its products virtual family campwhile the Seattle-based nonprofit organization Oceans initiative produced a popular one Virtual marine biology camp that is currently in the break.

The UW program could create a Friday science day camp or other sessions that are accessible to a larger audience.

"I'm not sure what it could look like," said Ginger. "Like everyone else, we try to learn over time."

About Darrel Hodges

Darrel Hodges works as a computer technician at a technology company.

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