Dana Cheney, who has had two children who have participated in the Trane BTU Crew at Beloit Jr. High School in Beloit, Kansas, shares her perspective on how the program has impacted them. The BTU Crew, a science, technology, engineering and math program (STEM) transforms schools into Virtual Living, Learning Labs (VL3) – engaging students and teachers alike. The BTU Crew’s easily integrated lessons and activities take a project-based learning (PBL) approach to ask students to identify solutions to specific challenges, helping them understand energy while expanding their analytical and problem-solving skills.
Q. What benefits do you think the BTU Crew provides for students?
A. To me, the STEM exposure that the BTU Crew provides is where the world is headed. It is opening doors to careers that we wouldn’t have even known about. The BTU Crew teaches students about cognitive learning and creative problem solving. It gives them a good base of learning and shows them how to learn in a different way. My kids have really enjoyed the tactile learning and creativity.
Q. How have your children responded to the program?
A. I think my kids have really enjoyed the BTU Crew because they've seen it in action in their school. They've seen how they’ve been able to track things like energy usage. One of my son’s classes found an energy-use peak when the school was closed and so they wondered why. That got them to investigate what happened and they learned there was a basketball tournament that day which led to a spike in energy use when school wasn’t in session. They can actually see energy use in their home life and in their schools. They can see how it pertains to them. I think they really enjoyed that.
My kids have become more energy conscious after their involvement with the BTU Crew. We switched over a lot of the lights in our home to LED lighting after Dan Whisler, the Trane Educator-in Residence who supports the program in their school, showed them how much heat the old-style light bulbs produced. He explained that you can almost roast a marshmallow over them. So, they’ve realized through actual projects at school how energy use is going to impact our house.
Q. How did the BTU Crew benefit your children from a STEM-learning perspective
A. My sons are more interested in technology, math and science now. It’s opened their eyes to what they can do with those things. They are asking “How can I get better at those things and how does that actually relate to my life and what I can do in the future?”
Q. Do you think that this kind of learning is important, and if so, why do you think it matters for students?
A. I think this type of learning is very important. Not only has it become important just to be on the cutting edge, to make yourself more competitive in the job market later on, it’s also important for problem-solving and creativity. It’s learning “how can this apply to me? How can I be creative? What’s my use of this knowledge now?”
Q. What impact does the opportunity for your sons to learn about energy use in their own school building have on them?
A. Learning about energy use in their own school building has made my sons more aware of their surroundings, more aware of energy use at school and at home. Students go through life in their own world, and this has opened them up to the broader picture and helped them ask how energy use impacts their generation and future generations. It helps them ask “how am I using technology? Am I wasteful with it? What can we do with it?”
Q. Have you seen your sons’ interest in potential future careers change after engaging in the BTU crew, and if so, how?
A. I know for one of my sons this has changed his interest as far as his career path goes. While he’s pretty determined to do something in the medical field, this has opened his eyes to the more tactile ways he can still use science and the math and be involved in healthcare but in a different way, whether robotic surgery or whatever that might be.
Q. Has the BTU Crew effort expanded to other opportunities for your children?
A. The BTU crew has expanded to other opportunities for our kids in that their interest in the BTU Crew led to their class participating in the KidWind program. That led to visits to wind farms where they learned from actual people on the job and were able to compete in KidWind competitions where they created their own wind turbines. It was exciting to see that this past year, the Beloit Junior High School Team won the Judges Award at the national competition!
Q. Do you think the BTU has empowered your children to affect change?
A. I think that the BTU Crew has empowered both of my children. It just gave them more confidence because they're learning the way they need to learn. They're learning with their hands. They're learning with what works best for them. And so, I think when they have success and they see things work that they've been able to do with their hands and their minds, with their science and math knowledge, I think that gives them more confidence. Rather than just learning something out of a book, they've applied it to their life.
I think the power to affect change impacts them a lot. They realize they've actually been able to make a difference. Even if it's a little thing, it's just the start of it, that's how we develop things. They realized that they can take this thought and knowledge that they have in their mind, grow with it and actually change the world. They can change how our school functions to make it more efficient, they can change how our city functions to make it more efficient and just see the snowball effect. That one thing that they've learned can impact multiple people.
Trane is a strategic business of Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator. Through its Sustainable Futures program, Trane Technologies brings bold action globally to uplift under-represented students through education and pathways to green and STEM careers. The futures of both our industry and our planet demand bold, diverse thinking and we're determined to inspire a new generation.