Expert Classroom Visitor Program Featured in the Washington Post
Students at Graham High School in North Carolina’s Alamance Burlington School System had the benefit of learning from graduate students from North Carolina State University about energy and electricity. The NC State students are part of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems (FREEDM) Center, an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) based at NC State, and participate in middle and high school classrooms in Alamance County as Expert Classroom Visitors instructing students using energy-based experiments. This visit was featured in the Washington Post's “Day in Photos” section.
The Physical Science students at Graham High School were 11th and 12th graders who, in many cases, come from lower socioeconomic groups. The FREEDM Expert Classroom Visitors provide students with many opportunities that they typically would not get within their normal science education. The high school students were able to interact and learn from young experts from all over the world, including one who graduated from Graham High School. Having such a diverse group of experts gave the students a chance to see that concepts they are learning about in their science classes are real-world topics that also affect more than just local issues. With the focus on energy, and more specifically renewable energy, students get a chance to see and think about the issue of energy and what will possibly happen in the future. The program receives attention from local press because of the unusual partnership between the schools and the ERC. Newspaper photographers and TV news crews often cover FREEDM events in the schools.
The Expert Classroom visitors are graduate students who are currently doing research within the FREEDM Systems Center. The research is focused on different elements within the future of the smart grid, delivering electrical energy and storing it. The Expert Classroom Visitor Program (ECVP) brings inquiry-based activities that allow students to work collaboratively, collecting and analyzing data as they move through each activity. The activities cover solar and wind energy, batteries, capacitors, and electric motors. FREEDM sponsors this program for partner middle and high schools in North Carolina and in Tallahassee, Florida (through partners Florida State University and Florida A&M University).
The Graham High School students took the activities a step further than usual by performing independent research projects. Students were able to pick a topic from one of the activities they participated in with the NCSU students. The projects consisted of a research-based written component, a visual/model, and conducting an experiment to test concepts within the topic chosen by the students. Using the classroom visit from the FREEDM program representatives as a springboard into the projects, it was inspiring to see students making the connection between concepts taught in class and by the visitors of the FREEDM program to energy issues that they are going to encounter in their adult life.