Cultivate the Next Generation of Clean Energy Futurists with Knowledge

The Massachusetts energy economy could be in good shape for the future if our aspiring engineers and technologists are getting a head start during field trips such as this one: Earlier this month a class of 5th graders from Shady Hill School visited New England’s largest privately-owned solar energy park. Although the Westford, Mass.-based facility is still under construction, it’s a good example of how Bay State companies, including Cathartes Private Investments, Nexamp, Inc. and National Grid, are not only banding together to develop real business solutions but also working to educate the next generation (as well as budding engineers, designers and scientists).

Field trips help reinforce knowledge in a practical, hands-on way, and I encourage all companies playing in the renewable energy industry to get involved. Does your company have a facility that demonstrates how your technology works and/or how it’s used to solve real life problems? I encourage you to reach out to your local school district (or those of surrounding towns) and volunteer your location as a “field-trip worthy” destination. Most kids love the outdoors, and fun ideas about sunshine (1336 Technologies, Applied Materials, Veeco Instruments), wind (Mass Megawatts Wind Power, Cape Wind) and even biogas/compost (Harvest Power) are relatively easy to bring to life.

You can also use kits and toys to pique interest and develop knowledge. The Boston Museum of Science’s gift shop, for instance, includes such products as Venture View’s renewable energy-themed kit (it allows kids to build six different solar-powered vehicles, and the solar panel in each one charges a rechargeable battery) and the National Geographic’s Sustainable Earth Lab, an environmental science kit for kids ages 8+.

Why not contact the Museum of Science (MOS) and design a kit or toy in collaboration? Or work hand-in-hand with the MOS to sponsor an exhibit or provide the props for hands-on demonstrations? (FYI, the MOS is usually filled with visiting school kids during the work week.)

My point is two-fold: Massachusetts renewable energy companies need to follow the lead of companies like Nexamp and begin serving as destinations for elementary and middle school field trips. At the same time, why not design a toy or kit in collaboration with the MOS, an organization such as the National Geographic Society or a forward-thinking toy manufacturer?

Renewable energy is here to stay, and exposing our kids to the growing industry is critical—especially in Massachusetts, where great ideas are hatching (and growing) every day.  Knowledge is power, and remember you may be planting seeds for our next generation of green energy and clean tech futurists.

Barbara Call is director of content for Greenough.