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Brookhaven Lab, AABE, Con Edison team up on s

UPTON, NY and BROOKLYN, NY – Through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, educators, the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), and local energy companies like ConEdison, students from Bedford Academy in Brooklyn were offered an opportunity to participate in a pilot course on sustainable energy and learn more about careers in the energy sector.

The full 21-week program — which counted for high school course credit — was open to students in grades 11 and 12 with no additional prerequisites. While this appealed to students interested in science, students who were unsure of their plans after high school were also encouraged to enroll in order to explore career opportunities and paths in the science industry. energy. Mackenzie Ulrop, an earth science teacher at Bedford Academy, volunteered to facilitate the program under the direction of the school’s deputy principal, Cluny Lavache. Summer Energy Academy (SEA) program instructors Samantha Tulloch, Director of Pedagogy and Mathematics, and Kori Lee-John, mentor and former student of the SEA program, were also instrumental in the implementation of this course. Brookhaven Lab’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion worked in conjunction with the Office of Educational Programs and several experts in the field of sustainable energy to help build the course and engage students. .

“We are delighted to participate in this pilot program. This gave our team a chance to sustainably engage with the same group of students for several months, a change from our typical field trip schedule,” explained Bernadette Uzzi, Supervisor of Pre-School Programs. scholars at Brookhaven Lab. “The course provides a broad overview of the energy sector, with a career focus, highlighting and presenting different types of technical jobs. While sustainable energy, such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal, is central to the program, we also address energy production, storage and consumption in an engaging way. Another important element is awareness of the work done at Brookhaven Lab and the staff who do it. We also want to educate students about high school research experiences and undergraduate lab internships.

Although the pandemic has presented the challenges of engaging students in a virtual environment, it has also had the benefit of making collaboration with the Brookhaven lab and other outside facilities and experts more accessible. Bedford Academy and Brookhaven Lab, for example, are both located in New York State, but Brooklyn and Upton, the cities where they are located, are about 65 miles apart. In this format, students could see facilities and chat more often with professionals in the field further away, without the hassle of arranging travel and time.

“One of the benefits of the presenters having a virtual presence was that they didn’t have to leave their place of work,” Lavache said. “There was a lecturer who studied geology and volcanic activity in the Canary Islands and gave a presentation to young people while they were there. Now there are students who want to travel to the Canary Islands and see these things on their own. It exposes them to an infinite number of opportunities.

Although it didn’t take place in person, the program remained very hands-on. The students received the physical material necessary to follow the course and were able to access simulations to reinforce certain concepts, which the students enthusiastically adhered to. The integration of guest speakers and industry videos, in particular, received a lot of positive feedback.

“It was very important that we brought people who looked like our students, professionals who came from the same regions, because it’s not something they normally see. These speakers tell them that this is an area that is open and possible for you too,” said SEA Program Director Tanzee Silver. Silver is a senior energy analyst at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Office of Sustainability. Her expertise in sustainable energy and her knowledge of the energy needs of the New York metropolitan area make her a valuable resource and mentor for this program.

The real-life applications of the concepts introduced made the content interesting, relevant and accessible. Learning about the energy sources that run their city and recognizing the components of those systems, like the steam vents that float through the streets of New York City, made these lessons memorable. The positive impact of this course was evident in student feedback and measurable in their performance.

“From the test results we’ve had so far, we can see that students are retaining this information,” Silver explained. “They have a better understanding of how energy works in our industry and how we can conserve it and move further towards a sustainable way of life.”

“These types of programs are very successful and have an impact on our students,” added Lavache. “A lot of them go into STEM fields, especially engineering. We have a former student that I’ve been in contact with who is now a nuclear engineer. It’s so rewarding to see, and ideally, this is the direction we aim for with our students.

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) touches everyone’s life, but not everyone will consider a career in these fields because they can initially be seen as daunting. It is not easy to present the diversity of jobs and educational programs in the very dense high school programs. For this reason, it is important for students to not only form a STEM identity, to see themselves confidently exploring how their world works through these areas, but to establish STEM persistence. Programs like this establish positive experiences that start early in school and develop students who are ready to work.

Based on Bedford Academy’s 98% college acceptance rate in June last year, it’s safe to say that most students at the academy will pursue their talents and interests in higher education, however, not all STEM pathways require the same resources. and investments. A key benefit of this program is also to highlight opportunities for exciting and lucrative STEM careers in the energy sector that might not require a degree.

“After high school, some students may decide they can’t or don’t want to go to college,” said William Suggs, president of the AABE’s New York Chapter and chair of the SEA program. “If they take an entry-level job in the energy sector, it’s entirely possible within a few years that they’ll be earning a six-figure salary in a helping role. It can change the dynamics of an entire community. These young people are doing fulfilling work and earning an income that allows them to go out and buy property and support their families.

Programs like this have long-term positive effects that start with each student and ripple outward. The Sustainable Energy course, in particular, gives young people the information and tools they need to meet the environmental and energy challenges of today and tomorrow, while changing the landscape of what it means to have a career. in STEM.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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