COLUMBIA, Mo. — Many may hesitate signing up for a summer class, especially 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, serves to increase and ensure correct knowledge about energy.
The two-day class, run successfully 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 2020; as a result, many precautions were implemented to protect the teachers from Covid-19. Before participants entered the classroom each morning, desks were sanitized and arranged to be at least 6 feet apart, temperatures were taken, masks were worn, and bottles of hand sanitizer were distributed. After teachers took precautions, they entered by a specified entrance and left through a separate exit. The desks were also sanitized at the conclusion of each day. In planning for food, Central Electric ordered individually packaged meals and drinks to reduce touch points among the group, in addition to one gloved person stationed by the food handed it out. Once everyone had their meals, they were able to enjoy them outside, socially distanced, and take a break from their masks.
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, 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 while “walking” through the building. Bobbi Dittmer, a science teacher for Smithton High School and participant of the course mentioned, “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.” Teachers also learned how the university remains reliable by interconnecting with other power companies.
Throughout the course, the participants were extremely cooperative with the protocols and had few issues with the adjustments required. After being asked about how he thought the overall success of the program was affected by Covid-19, Mark Newbold, vice president of administrative services at Central Electric replied, “The only impact that I noticed was that it was difficult to project through a mask; outside of that, everything flowed along.”
In addition to learning about energy efficiency, energy sources, and other essential topics, teachers were able to experience first-hand the Model X electric vehicle by Tesla. Dittmer enjoyed seeing the vehicle and said, “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.” Nancy Gibler, vice president of business development at Central Electric, worked with Tesla to bring the car to the program. After seeing the Model X, Dittmer 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.” Energy in Today’s Classroom is looking forward to welcoming Tesla back again next year with the Model X and the highly anticipated Cybertruck.
Overall, everyone thought the program was a great success despite the circumstances. Keith Mueller, senior education specialist at Central Electric, said about the course, “One of the most successful parts of the program was the wiring of the circuits.” Mueller had two presentations, one focusing on electrical safety. Dittmer 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.”
— Central Electric Power Cooperative
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