In one corner of the classroom, a group of students tinkered with the number of blades in miniature wind turbines and the angle of the blades to see if they could make them spin faster to produce more energy.
Next to them, another group of students were snapping together components to create a functioning electrical circuit to power a light. At a third table, students were putting their heads together to discuss ways to engage the community to become more energy efficient.
This is just a small fraction of what goes on inside the Energy Station at Muraoka Elementary School in Chula Vista, which opened in July as a result of a partnership between our company, the Chula Vista Elementary School District, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).
Every day, a group of sixth graders from a different Chula Vista elementary school rotates through this brand-new lab to learn about all things energy-related.
The program at Muraoka is one of many classroom-based STEM learning initiatives that we support to help develop the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering and math. To position our region to become a leader in solving 21st century challenges and thrive in the innovation economy, we believe it’s critical to partner with local schools to guide and inspire students to pursue STEM careers.
Paving Career Pathways
It’s not just the scientific aspects of electricity and renewable energy that student pick up at the Energy Station, they also learn about the wide range of careers they can pursue in the industry – everything from being an electrical engineer and solar installer to being a sustainability specialist and operations manager.
More than 40 careers are highlighted at the Energy Station in brightly colored, laminated cards that students get to choose from. The cards show them what kind of educational attainment is required for particular jobs and the salaries that go with those jobs.
Michael Bruder, resource teacher for innovation and instruction at the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said it’s all about “helping kids find their strengths and what their passions are and what careers would fit them.”
Melissa Hughes, the Energy Station teacher at Muraoka Elementary, is particularly proud of how the program is inspiring girls to explore science and consider STEM careers. “It’s really exciting to get girls involved and know that they can be really good in science,” she said.
Hooking Young Minds on STEM at An Early Age
When students come to the Energy Station, they spend an activity-packed day there, rotating through six stations of hands-on assignments designed according to six themes: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional (RIASEC theory of personality types and career choices).
At the end of the exercise, students are asked which activity station they liked the best. That leads to further conversations about the types of careers may best fit their personality and interests.
Leilani Herrera, a 6th grader from Finney Elementary, who was at the “Realistic” station building circuits to power a light and make a switch work, said the exercise made her think more about how electricity – something that she takes granted – works.
“I did not know about any of these things before,” she said.
New Year, New Program at South Chula Vista Library
More is to come with Chula Vista Elementary School District’s STEM educational initiatives. Work is underway to relocate the Energy Station permanently to the South Chula Vista Library, where it will be leveraged as a resource for the entire community, including afterschool enrichment. Set to open in January 2019, this new space will function similar to the Smart City education center in the basement of Chula Vista’s Civic Center branch library.