CYC Students Learn About Sustainable Energy

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The University of Maryland Center for Young Children (CYC) and the Energy Research Center (UMERC) have found exciting and innovative ways to introduce a younger generation to sustainability. Throughout the summer, the CYC has connected with members of the UMD community to offer their students the opportunity to see how our campus is committed to a greener future.

On Friday, July 10, fourteen students, ages 4 and 5 years old, were accompanied by UMD student aides and CYC summer camp teachers Vera Wiest and Kate Williams to meet with Dr. Eric Wachsman, Director of the UMD Energy Research Center for a tour of the UMERC facilities in the Engineering Laboratory Building.

Dr. Wachsman began the tour by showing the kids solar tracking photovoltaic (PV) panels in the parking lot outside of the Lab Building and explaining how energy from the sun is converted to electricity by those PV panels. Amazingly, they were all familiar with solar panels and easily pointed the panels out on the solar tracker.

Dr. Wachsman then explained that the electricity from the solar tracking PV helped power the electric vehicle (EV) charging station in the parking lot and showed how it was connected to his EV, a Tesla, an investment he made because of his personal commitment to sustainability and conserving energy.

Dr. Wachsman gave all the kids an opportunity to sit in the car as he explained how it runs exclusively on electricity with no gas needed and since there’s no engine in the front, the additional storage space allowed all of the kids to fit in the car at the same time. Needless to say, the kids loved the car. One of the children remarked: “You have the coolest car in the world!”

Next, it was time to go inside the lab to showcase the great research done at UMERC. Dr. Wachsman explained how they create batteries and fuel cells and how they test them. He also showed them the screen printer and furnaces used to make them. One of the kids thought the cylindrical-shaped furnace was an oversized battery. The tour was an exercise in “looking and not touching!”

For the final stop of the tour, Dr. Wachsman showed the kids the Redox Power System’s “Cube”, the award-winning fuel cell for Best Green Incubator Company in Maryland for 2015. Dr. Wachsman explained how the fuel cell provides renewable, clean energy and how he hopes someday the Redox Cubes can provide reliable, clean electricity to homes, businesses, and potentially even college campuses such as UMD College Park.

The group posed for one final photo to wrap up a fun morning of learning. Dr. Wachsman got to showcase the great work taking place at UMERC and the CYC students were able to learn something new and have an experience they’ll be able to share with their friends and family.

We also collected some quotes from the children about their experience:

“You have to plug in the car to not pollute the air.”
“We loved getting into the car!”
“We liked the solar panels; they were square.”
“We liked going into the laboratory and seeing the batteries.”
“It was cool seeing the fuel cell and finding the switch.”

The Center for Young Children will continue educational tours this summer with visits from members of the Office of Sustainability, the Maryland Educational Solar Array and a trip to LEAFHouse on campus. They also previously visited Dan Wray, Facilities Manager for a tour of The Stamp Student Union earlier this summer. At Stamp, they saw the green roof, the rain barrel and chef’s garden, water bottle filling stations, recycling and compost collection and then stopped at the Maryland Dairy for local ice cream.

The CYC also recently made a commitment to a sustainable future by installing a rain garden at their building, thanks to the great work of Dr. Steven Cohan and grants from the LaunchUMD campaign and the University Sustainability Fund.

The University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) is a multidisciplinary initiative dedicated to advancing the frontiers of energy science and technology, with a special focus on forward-looking approaches for alternative energy generation and storage. The Center focuses on a broad array of research areas critical for future energy technology and development.

Dr. Eric D Wachsman, Director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center, is the William L. Crentz Centennial Chair in Energy Research with appointments in both the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Maryland. He is also the proud parent of one of the students at the Children for Young Children.

Visit the Office of Sustainability's "SustainableUMD Spotlight" for the original article and additional photos. 

Published July 20, 2015