Special thanks to Lora Hine, Director of Educational Programs, CLASSE/ CHESS, and Matt Kozlowski of Cornell Facilities Engineering Group
In the summer of 2017, Summer Science Snapshot teachers and youth of Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) embarked on a multi-day journey to learn about solar energy and solar powered vehicles. Middle school students grades 6-8 and teachers from rural Tully and West Genesee School Districts participated in a series of hands-on activities and field trips related to solar energy, including a trip to the Snyder Road Solar Farm, Cornell's first megawatt renewable energy generation project.
These students, primarily female and from lower-income families, are initially recruited by teachers for their budding interest in STEM, but do not usually have many opportunities to explore these subjects beyond the classroom. In response, CHESS co-hosts Summer Science Snapshot to help middle school educators cultivate this passion in their students.
Students spent time team-building, discovering how science is linked to technology, and working through the engineering design process. Groups conducted hands-on activities such as experimenting with gearing systems, measuring electrical output from different sized solar panels, and mounting a panel with a known wattage to their geared vehicle to make it run. Students displayed their final projects to the public during a showcase event on the last day of the program, communicating their findings and demonstrating how humans can use solar energy as alternative energy source.
Matt Kozlowski of Cornell Infrastructure, Properties, & Planning recalls:
"It was exciting to see young students so interested in solar energy both from a scientific and technical perspective as well as a response to climate change. This will be their world in a few years, and I hope that this early exposure to renewable technology generated a spark in a future scientist, engineer or other type of leader."