11/16/13 EXPERIMENTAL EDUCATION
Sam Roberts / Times-News
Grad students team up to pass along their math, technology knowhow
By Isaac Groves The Times-News 11/16/13
Reprinted with permission.
Students teach students to teach students.
“We need you to learn it real well,” Richard Byron told students from two Cummings High School science classes Friday, “because we’re going to need you to turn around and teach it to your classmates.”
Byron works with Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management, Systems. He was helping eight N.C. State University graduate students at Cummings for one of the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics academies it brings to schools.
The graduate students took eight groups of students through a different experiment for each group. They were all to do with the chemical, physical and engineering principles of generating energy.
“We know in life if we learn something well enough to explain it, we know it better,” said Penny Jefferies, director of education programs at FREEDM.
FREEDM is working on ideas for a “smart grid” where millions of energy sources, many of them renewable, will put electricity into a system where everyone can tap into it.
Since renewables, like solar and wind power, are not as steady as a coal-fi red power plant, the new grid will have to take inputs from lots of different places. The organization’s website describes it like the Internet for electricity.
Graduate student Damien Knight talked to a group of students about how get the most out of a solar cell and how to use it to charge batteries to have steady renewable energy.
Education is a big part of FREEDM’s efforts. All those engineers have to come from somewhere, so FREEDM Systems and the National Science Foundation fund programs like this one as part of its pre-college outreach effort to recruit those future engineers and steer them toward college and science.
Prithvi Kukillaya works with his group on making a small windmill on one of the science lab tables. He leads them through the concepts of converting wind energy to mechanical energy and mechanical energy to electrical energy.
“That’s the basics of how wind power works,” Kukillaya said.
Qi Tian had four students looking at the reaction of vinegar and baking soda.
She wanted them to tell the difference between exothermic reactions, the ones that release heat like fi re, and endothermic reactions, the ones that absorb heat from the environment like, it turns out, the foamy mess that comes when vinegar and baking soda combine.
The students hypothesized it was exothermic, but when Cummings student Kevin Enoch put a sensitive thermometer into the reaction, they saw the temperature drop.
After the experiment, Tian and the students sat at some desks to talk about the concepts and apply them.
She asked them about things like burning candles and melting ice cubes to talk about which ones absorb and release heat energy.
Tian had them pass around a chemical hand warmer and explain why it was warm.
“Why is it hot?” Cummings student Elicia Henderson said. “Because the molecules in it are mixing and releasing energy.”