Adventures in Electric Power Systems: Pre-college Programs Get Kids Involved

Achievement date: 

Industry and community support are enriching activities for pre-college students sponsored by the education program of the Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). For example, nuclear engineering consulting firm AMS Corporation hosted the field trip for the girls-only Adventure in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Summer Camp. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have hosted lab tours for the Young Scholar (YSP) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) programs continuously for five years. In addition, Family Engineering Night (FEN), with an emphasis on schools located in inner city or rural areas with economically disadvantaged populations, continues to be well received by the community with the strong support from area middle and elementary schools, and it has become a tradition at some of the Center’s elementary school partners.


One of the core elements of the ERC program’s education mission, spanning pre-college through University level to practitioners, is to produce graduates who understand industrial practice and will be adaptive, creative innovators in a globally connected, innovation-driven world. CURENT was established in 2011 and has been actively building its education programs since that time. CURENT’s education effort is aimed at promoting engineering at all levels by a threefold program to increase elementary and middle school students’ interest in engineering, encourage high school students’ interest in electrical engineering and undergraduate research, and support K-12 teachers’ engineering content and practice knowledge. 


CURENT’s four main pre-college education programs target the following grade ranges: K-8—FEN; 6-8—Adventures in STEM; 9-12—YSP Program; and 5-12—RET Program. The FEN program offer a variety of hands-on engineering activities for K-8 students and their families. The RET program aims to support teachers each summer and during each academic year term by giving them the opportunity to work with CURENT's faculty and graduate students. The YSP, one of CURENT’s two kid-centric programs, is designed to help capable young people develop an interest in careers related to electrical power and energy systems. Adventures in STEM is a fun and educational summer day program for middle school-aged girls.