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Colorado STEM Lab Expands into Energy Field

December 20, 2017

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We take energy for granted. We flip a switch, and don’t wonder or hope a light will turn on. It simply will, and we don’t think about it any more than we think about breathing. Electricity surrounds us in nearly every waking and sleeping moment, yet it is not noticed until that power goes out.

Because it is so pervasive, reliable and obvious, energy as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field is more likely to be missed by students. It takes tens of thousands of people to keep power flowing and prepare for a new energy frontier, and many of those people are retiring at rates faster than other STEM fields.

At the Department of Energy, we want and need to inspire the next generation to pursue careers in this vibrant, exciting and critical industry.

Recently, Western Area Power Administration donated several electricity exhibits to expand Bear Valley International School’s STEM lab in Golden, Colorado into the energy industry. The middle school students now have regular access to interactive exhibits from WAPA’s professional training facility, the Electric Power Training Center, including a hand-crank generator, a distribution system table, a generation and load frequency balance, a diorama of generation sources and an exhibit that demonstrates magnetic forces and current flow.

The exhibits are instructive tools on energy, and are geared for a middle school audience to introduce them to electricity concepts. These exhibits will generate curiosity, educate future leaders, and stimulate interest in energy careers.

Our relationships with schools in the Denver Metro Area give students a behind-the-scenes look at how power is generated, distributed, and delivered to their homes, cellphones and even their cars. Students visited the Electric Power Training Center over two days in May to learn about the history of electrical theory and explore grid operations on the miniature power system.

All of the kids enjoyed the lessons, even though energy is a complex topic. A few even asked how they could work in the industry when they got older. There is no greater indicator for success in our efforts to promote the energy industry as a viable career. These donations should also encourage and empower students to pursue advanced learning in energy in all its various career paths right in the classroom.

Through the collaboration with Denver Public Schools, it has been exciting to see the future engineers, linemen, grid and plant operators, electricians and power marketers explore new facets of the world they have seen every day, but maybe hadn’t thought of before.

Maybe a few of them will return to take classes at the Electric Power Training Center in the future. Now that’s an electrifying thought. 

Colorado students at a STEM event with the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA)