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The two universities have received a second Constellation Energy grant to support energy education and outreach programs

PITTSBURGH (February 1, 2016) ...Engineering professors at Robert Morris University and the University of Pittsburgh have received a grant from Constellation Energy to continue their Energy Inventor Labs education and outreach programs. 

Tony Kerzmannat RMU and David Sanchez at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering developed the Energy Inventors Labs thanks to a previous grant from Constellation Energy. The Energy Inventor Labs aim to interest K-12 students in energy technology and engineering, and to encourage college students to develop energy efficient technologies and innovations that harness various sources of energy.

"When students get excited about energy, engineering and technology, they have gone beyond just learning,” said Kerzmann, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. “This is what truly leaves a lasting impression on them, and this can be accomplished by allowing them to create things while tapping into their imagination and their own personal interests."

Kerzmann and Sanchez estimate that more than 1,000 students in the Pittsburgh region have benefited from Energy Inventor Labs since the initiative launched in January 2015. Among the programs supported through the initiative:

  • Energy Ties Challenge: The goal of this weeklong outreach event for middle school and high school students was to teach them about energy generation, conversion, efficiency, consumption, and control systems. The students learned to design and build solar-powered Lego vehicles, which they raced against one another.
  • Teach the Teacher: The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering provided professional development and resources for middle school teachers to integrate sustainability education in their classrooms. Sanchez is the assistant director for education at the Mascaro Center.
  • Investing Now: This five-week summer programat Pitt provided advising, tutoring, and mentoring to 180 pre-college and undergraduate students from minority groups who are underrepresented in scientific and technical fields.

With the latest round of grant funding, Kerzmann and Sanchez plan to work with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, among others, to demonstrate how to incorporate the Energy Inventor Labs lesson into schools’ core curriculum. Their focus will be hands-on projects in partnership with the local “Maker Movement,” which emphasizes learning by building technology, art, craft, electronics, and engineering projects.

“We’re grateful that Constellation continues to invest in developing the program and allows us to engage the community,” said Sanchez, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We’re excited for this next year as the combination of studying energy in a maker education context is apt to provide our students with a unique and transformative learning experience."


Author: Jonathan Potts, Robert Morris University

Contact: Jonathan Potts