For the 65 students in the Construction Technology program at Crockett High School, a new outdoor Solar Learning Center is providing important knowledge and skills about energy technology. More importantly, students are finding that solar energy is both clean and cool.
Opened in November of 2011, this interactive Solar Learning Center at Crockett High was the first of 15 constructed on the following Austin Independent School District campuses: Akins High School, Anderson High School, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Bowie High School, Burnet Middle School, Covington Middle School, Kealing Middle School, Lamar Middle School, McCallum High School, Mendez Middle School, Paredes Middle School, Pearce Middle School, Pleasant Hill Elementary/SHRC Annex, and Reagan High School.
Each learning center is equipped with a fully functional solar array, seating for up to 30 students and three solar panels that can be rotated for interactive lessons on solar energy. In addition, each center produces enough electricity to power the equivalent of a small, one-bedroom apartment. Instruction about solar energy ranges from using the senses to observe characteristics of the sun in elementary school, to debating renewable energy pros and cons in middle school, to installing photovoltaic systems and preparing for careers in solar energy in high school.
Students in the three-year Crockett Construction Technology program are earning up to 28 college credits by studying trades such as electrical, carpentry, plumbing, and solar energy. In the solar curriculum, students learn to install solar panels that supply clean, renewable energy to some of Crockett’s buildings. Students will also utilize the Solar Learning Center to pass on their knowledge to younger students.
The Solar Learning Centers and curriculum development were made possible through a $450,000 grant awarded to Austin Energy from the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Cities program. The program involved partnerships with 25 large U.S. cities to develop comprehensive, city-wide approaches to increasing solar energy use. Austin was named one of the Solar America Cities in 2008.
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