Getting hands-on experience is an essential part of training for a career in renewable energy. What's even better is when that experience leads to a product that will benefit others.
On May 12, Ecotech Institute students from the solar energy technology program had the opportunity to teach two students from Cherry Creek High School's EcoAction club how to set up a solar panel installation for an important cause; the high school students, along with their club sponsor Jeff Boyce, will be traveling to Uganda to install the solar panels at an orphanage run by the the Nyaka Aids Orphans Project.
“Ecotech institute's mission is centered around renewable energy and education, but a core part of our mission is also to give back to the community,” says Chris Gorrie, president of Ecotech Institute. “This project was the perfect combination of all of these goals.”
Boyce reached out to Ecotech Institute for help to build the solar panel system. For him, the project serves not only as an important community service act, but also as a way to get his students engaged in understanding world issues.
“It's one thing to teach students how solar panels work, it's another thing to teach them why solar panels are important,” Boyce says.
According to Abbie Weeks, a junior at Cherry Creek High School and the founder of the EcoAction club, the group initially started to make their school a more sustainable and eco-friendly campus.
“We got rid of Styrofoam trays in the cafeteria, and we started a plastic bag initiative,” she explains.
When the students found out that Boyce had a connection to the Nyaka Aids Orphan Project, they started to think bigger.
“We decided to start the Notes for Nyaka initiative to raise money for these solar panels,” says Lauren McMillen, also a junior at Cherry Creek.
Ecotech Institute instructors and students helped design the solar panel system that will be installed at the orphanage, and provided training to Weeks and McMillen so they can assemble the system themselves when they get to Uganda. According Gorrie, the project has provided Ecotech Institute students a great hands-on experience — an element that is key to the school's education programs.
“The nice part of this project is that our students are actually getting the opportunity to teach,” says Gorrie. “They are out there teaching these high school students how everything works. I always tell students ‘You know you understand something when you can teach it to someone else.'”
Weeks, McMillan and Boyce leave for Uganda on June 6, and hope to raise $4,000 for the trip. You can make a donation at notesfornyaka.com.