Advancing Clean Energy

Students of Color Are Tomorrow’s Solar Engineers

February 22, 2018

With the right opportunities to get hands-on with STEM, three dozen high school students might become the scientists and innovators of the future.

On a recent Saturday during Black History Month, 39 African-American students from across the Chicago area gathered in Illinois Tech’s Crown Hall to build “solar suitcases” provided by We Care Solar. Each suitcase is as an easy-to-use portable power unit that provides reliable lighting and power for mobile communication, laptops, and small medical devices.

The activity is part of the We Share Solar program, which offers youth opportunities to link science and technology with international humanitarian service. Students spent the afternoon learning about the needs of developing countries while assembling and testing the suitcases, which will be sent to communities in developing regions of countries such as Haiti and Uganda. ComEd also will send suitcases to Puerto Rico, where the company recently deployed crews and equipment to assist with the hurricane recovery.

 “It feels really good to be working with this technology and helping others because you know that what you’re doing you’re not just learning something new, but you’re actually learning and helping someone else,” said Arianna, one of the participants. “So, it feels really special.”

The session at Illinois Tech was the first this year in ComEd’s annual Solar Spotlight program, in which students learn about solar energy while working on projects that improve their communities.

At their next session, students will continue their solar education with a program at ComEd’s Chicago Training Center focused on the basics of solar energy, hands-on activities to measure solar energy, and a presentation by social entrepreneurs Emile and Kelley Cambry, who will talk about the importance of a STEM education and their journey to success.