Beloit USD 273 Students Drive Installation of Educational Solar Farm
April 19, 2023
Beloit USD Students Drive Installation of Educational Solar Farm
When leaders at Beloit Unified School District 273 undertook building upgrades, they also took the opportunity to elevate STEM learning and help prepare students for future technical careers by implementing the Trane BTU Crew™ program. The BTU Crew features energy education and career exploration coursework that can be implemented as part of an associated energy services or construction project.
This STEM program transforms schools into living-learning energy labs – engaging students and teachers alike. Dan Whisler, Trane Educator-in-Residence and a former science teacher, worked closely on the program with Christie Fouts, the Beloit teacher involved in the BTU Crew at Beloit Jr./Sr. High School.
In addition to helping Fouts incorporate the program, Whisler encouraged her to bring community experts into the classroom. “There are local resources like city managers and utilities leaders that teachers can tap into to help students expand their understanding of where energy comes from,” said Whisler.
When the city of Beloit decided to invest in renewable solar energy, Fouts invited the Beloit city manager to update the students about the benefits of solar renewable energy. “Students can easily take electricity for granted so it’s important for them to learn where it comes from, especially since the future of energy means that in larger cities, peak demand charges will ultimately impact residences as well as commercial buildings,” said Fouts.
After hearing the city manager tout the benefits of the city’s photovoltaic installation, the students were enthused and eager to learn more. They decided to ask for an educational solar array to be built at their school. Working with Fouts and Whisler, they built a business case for a small educational-size solar array which they then presented to the school board, highlighting how it would benefit their STEM learning.
The board approved the proposal and Trane worked with the district to install a small solar array near the school. Beloit’s BTU Crew students now use the solar array to undertake hands-on learning that addresses energy supply as well as demand.
Whisler found the process that led to the solar installation to be an exciting educational journey. “We're hitting the interdisciplinary approach. It's not just energy related to what students are learning, it's science, it's math, it's economics, it's politics. It's all there,” he said.
“It's no longer just a case study in a textbook,” said Casey Seifert, Principal of Beloit Jr.-Sr. High School. “Just as the Beloit BTU Crew students can look at their building analytics and see how energy is being used, they can now look at the solar array and see how electricity is being generated.”
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