by | Sep 21, 2020

Teachers became students when they attended the Energy in Today’s Classroom course. Here they learn to wire simple circuits.

Many may hesitate signing up for a summer class during these uncertain times, but 15 teachers and two engineering students from across Missouri and Iowa were up for the challenge. The eighth year of “Energy in Today’s Classroom” took place Aug. 4 and 5 on the University of Missouri-Columbia’s campus. The course, designed for teachers from elementary to high school levels who are sponsored by their local electric cooperatives, helps teachers better understand how energy powers our world.

The two-day class, run by Central Electric Power Cooperative and the University’s Agriculture System Management Department, was the first in-person course through the University of Missouri since March; as a result, many precautions were implemented to protect teachers from COVID-19.

Before participants entered the classroom each morning, desks were sanitized and arranged 6 feet apart, temperatures were taken, masks were worn and bottles of hand sanitizer were distributed. Teachers entered by a specified entrance and left through a separate exit.

The in-person tour of the university’s power plant changed into a more COVID friendly presentation with the help of Harry Frank, managing engineer of Power Plant Operations Energy Management, and engineering students Sydney Rogers and Alex Yount. They created a virtual tour of the plant and described the diversified portfolio of energy sources (coal, biomass, gas, wind and solar) used to power the university. Bobbi Dittmer, a science teacher at Smithton High School, liked the presentation. “I think the Mizzou Power Plant girls did a great job with the virtual tour and explaining everything, but it would have been nice to go inside the plant and see it up close.”

The course went well despite the need for COVID-19 protocols. “The only impact that I noticed was that it was difficult to project through a mask; outside of that, everything flowed along,” says Mark Newbold, vice president of administrative services at Central Power.

In addition to learning about energy efficiency, energy sources and other essential topics, teachers were able to experience firsthand the Model X electric vehicle by Tesla. “I loved seeing the Model X car and seeing how technology has created such a futuristic car that I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” says Bobbi.

Nancy Gibler, vice president of business development at Central Power, worked with Tesla to bring the car to the program. After seeing the Model X, Bobbi contacted Tesla and asked if they visited schools. “To my surprise they do and my kids would love to see the technology after we discuss the lithium battery technology.”

One of the most successful parts of the program taught by Keith Mueller, senior education specialist at Central Electric, gave the teachers a chance to wire circuits. Mueller had two presentations, one focusing on electrical safety and the other wiring.

Bobbi commented, “I really enjoyed all of it, but I was really engaged with Keith Mueller and the model he brought in to teach electrical safety. The visuals were engaging and the real-life situations he talked about will make it more relatable to my students.”

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