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Powering Our Future by Engaging Our Students
Over the last three weeks I’ve had the amazing opportunity to speak with students at the McLoughlin and Alki Middle Schools in Vancouver, Washington. In partnership with the youth mentoring organization nConnect, I headed north of our Oregon border to talk about renewable power, energy efficiency, and the Smart Grid with some smart and engaged middle schoolers.
nConnect’s mission is to enhance the learning experience of students and inspire their interest and achievement in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The middle schoolers I visited were exploring energy and its role in our lives as part of their course curriculum. Through my presentation, I shared with the students a close-up look at renewable energy and “smart” technology, with a specific focus on how these can impact our overall energy consumption here in the Northwest. Through experiments, lectures, and presentations like the one I gave, they come to understand the difference between fossil fuels and renewable power and the way conservation and energy efficiency can be a benefit to our region.
It was fun to get back to basics and explain the difference between finite power generation resources and the different kinds of renewable power that can be brought onto the electrical grid to help replace those retiring resources. I was very impressed when several students could explain the difference between solar thermal and solar photovoltaic better than I could! And I got a lot of interest in Tillamook County’s MEAD project—biomass related to cow poop is a big draw for the twelve to thirteen set.
We also talked about the different ways households can embrace conservation efforts, and the students all had great suggestions for basic energy efficiency measures—from replacing the lights in a home or school with compact fluorescent light bulbs to putting new insulation into buildings. The students at McLoughlin and Alki really understood what we need to do as individuals and in the community to work towards a more sustainable energy future.
For a generation of people who are growing up with smart phones and the internet as part of their everyday lives, our discussion about the Smart Grid was a no-brainer! I think many of them were surprised that our electrical grid wasn’t already smart. Electric vehicles were also a hot topic of discussion—it was exciting to see the level of understanding and interest in EVs, even in kids who are several years away from getting behind the wheel.
I want to thank Cyndy Hagin and Rob Potestio for welcoming me into their classrooms and Brittany Stebbins from nConnect for arranging this opportunity. CUB has been working for consumers—regardless of how old they are!—for almost thirty years, and it’s a real honor to be able to share our knowledge with the generation that will power our future.