Educators and Friends of QESST Introduce Photovoltaic Outreach Plans

Achievement date: 
2018
Outcome/accomplishment: 

The Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center (ERC) at Arizona State University (ASU)-Tempe developed and published a new curriculum for introducing photovoltaic (PV) science and technology activities to participants across the spectrum of learning. A pilot of the Solar Activities Outreach Handbook has been used for outreach efforts with K-12 children.

Impact/benefits: 

Photovoltaic science shows promise for meeting the growing energy demands of the 21st Century, mitigating challenges associated with climate change, and assuring the availability of sustainable, cost-effective energy solutions for everyone. While Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include engineering education at the K-12 level, schools and curriculum developers are not yet ready to provide this content in the breadth and depth that they would for other standardized subjects. The Solar Activities Outreach Handbook introduces viable options and alternatives for exploring the effects of gradual, entry-level learning in this area. The Handbook collects lesson plans from QESST researchers, teachers, students, and guest educators. Within the publication are compiled fifteen outreach activities; six classroom lessons; and five plans for challenges or competitions that further engage students and participants with the art and science of renewable solar energy. Using these resources, QESST cohort participants – including scholars, in-service teachers, and youth – can connect more fully at national and/or international levels.

Explanation/Background: 

Photovoltaics can meet the increasing demands for “greener” technology as well as environmental and economic sustainability; until recently, however, the public’s understanding of the field has been largely superficial. In light of emerging factors and pressures witnessed across such fields as climate and population science, the challenge and possibility of PV technologies poses new concerns. Scientists recognize a need to continue to deploy the current generation of solar technology while also preparing for a transition to the next generation of solar energy. Scientists and educators at the QESST Center hypothesize that a combination of current and next generation solar will bring the greatest benefits. Current work within QESST and its partnering sites investigates these claims to provide deeper knowledge and assess the resulting insights.

The Solar Activities Outreach Handbook exemplifies the current efforts to leverage solar and renewable energy more effectively. The approaches outlined in the publication aim to magnetize broader participation via community-based projects that are well-connected to students’ social contexts; deepen educational opportunities across the lifetime spectrum; and develop research, events and best practices for workforce training and development. The QESST education model spans offerings in university education, public engagement and outreach, pre-college curriculum development, teacher training, and active dialogues with policy-makers and external stakeholders to mobilize sustainable energy as a means toward revitalizing and evolving popular perceptions of science and engineering.

As a more comprehensive “classrooms-through-careers-minded” model, these methods serve to expand the array of experiences and benefits possible from solar as well as other STEM engineering applications. This work provides opportunities for learning communities interested in photovoltaic engineering to foster the growth of a STEM workforce that is cognizant and skillful of cultural difference, while also raising the awareness and activity levels of the public in shaping conduct at national, state, and community levels to fully express the mode of renewable energy. QESST Education is generously supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE).