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Increasing K-12 Students' Understanding of Photovoltaics: Using Solar Energy to Engineer our Energy Future (Resource Exchange)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Michelle Jordan Arizona State University

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Michelle Jordan is as associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. She also serves as the Education Director for the QESST Engineering Research Center. Michelle’s program of research focuses on social interactions in collaborative learning contexts. She is particularly interested in how students navigate communication challenges as they negotiate complex engineering design projects. Her scholarship is grounded in notions of learning as a social process, influenced by complexity theories, sociocultural theories, sociolinguistics, and the learning sciences.

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Mia DeLaRosa

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Mia DeLaRosa received her BA in in Elementary Education from Arizona State University in 2004. She went on to receive her Masters in Educational Leadership and Principal Certificate from Northern Arizona University in 2007. She is currently working on her EdD at Arizona State University. Mia is highly qualified to teach middle grades math, science, and language arts. Mia has taught middle school science in the Alhambra Elementary School District for nine years where she also leads after-school engineering clubs. Mia has been directly involved with district-wide initiatives including technology integration, Just In Time Assessments, curriculum pacing guides, and implementation of a research based, hands-on science and engineering curriculum. Mia has also worked closely with FOSS as a professional development facilitator. She also worked with Project WET at the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension as a curriculum developer and professional development faciltator.

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Rebecca Hooper

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Rebecca Hooper is currently working as the Science Department Chair at Laurel High School in Laurel, MS. She holds a M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from University of Texas at Arlington and a B.S. in Biochemistry from California Polytechnic State University. In addition to serving as department chair she is also the Science Fair Coordinator and Beta Club Sponsor.

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Jill Denman Murphy

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Cody Anderson Scottsdale Community College

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Many of the pressing issues facing the world today are fundamentally intertwined with global energy needs. Thus, a defining challenge of the 21st century is meeting the world’s demand for energy. Photovoltaic (PV) devices are a promising sustainable energy source. If the production and use of PV continues to grow at present rates, it can sustainably meet the world’s total energy demand by 2050. However, committed engineers and knowledgeable citizen are needed to achieve this goal. Thus, QESST, an Engineering Research Center for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies, aims to advance PV science, technology and education by supporting the ability of K-12 teachers and outreach coordinators to develop and implement lessons on PV research and engineering.

To further these aims, QESST implemented a Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program that provides classroom teachers opportunities to develop connections between the lab and the classroom. Participants spent two weeks working in QESST Solar Power Lab, making and testing their own solar cells and modules. They spent another three weeks learning about various socio-technical aspects of PV and developing solar curricula for K-12 students. In consultation with QESST graduate students specializing in PV-related fields, and drawing on educational research, they developed a set of interrelated lessons incorporating active, constructive, and interactive elements. Each lesson went through multiple design cycles to ensure its effectiveness. Lessons were iteratively improved through peer critique and field testing during K-12 outreach events. Finally, QESST education leaders and scholars provided support as RETs implemented the new PV curricula in their own classrooms during the subsequent school year.

The resulting set of QESST RET lessons integrates engineering, science, and mathematics instruction in meaningful and significant ways to support K-12 students understanding of how solar cells are made and how engineering research is improving the potential of PV to address the world’s energy needs. The purpose of the lessons is to help K-12 students learn about solar energy technologies and imagine how they might one day become innovators in this important field. Each lesson can be used across a range of grade levels.

Jordan, M., & DeLaRosa, M., & Hooper, R., & Murphy, J. D., & Anderson, C. (2017, June), Increasing K-12 Students' Understanding of Photovoltaics: Using Solar Energy to Engineer our Energy Future (Resource Exchange) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28518

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015