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Problem-based Learning in the Training of Middle and High School Teachers in Alternative Energy

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

K-12 Experiences in Energy Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1066.1 - 25.1066.6



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Paper Authors


Liping Guo Northern Illinois University

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Liping Guo received a B.E. degree in automatic control from Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China, in 1997, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Auburn University, Ala., USA, in 2001 and 2006 respectively. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering Technology program in the Department of Technology at the Northern Illinois University. Her research interests are mainly in the area of power electronics, renewable energy, embedded systems, and control. Guo is a member of the ASEE, a Senior Member of the IEEE and a member of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi.

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Mansour Tahernezhadi Northern Illinois University

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Problem-Based Learning in the Training of Middle and High School Teachers in Alternative EnergyAbstract: Making the nation’s energy system greener and smarter will benefit the environment, theeconomy, and the workforce. Yet, a critical national shortage of skilled electric powerprofessionals is expected in the next five years. This deficit could be stemmed if talented middleschool and high school students considered such careers. Middle and high school teachers canplay a key role in encouraging students to pursue careers in green energy. The Emerging Technology Institute (ETI) is a collaborative project of Northern IllinoisUniversity, Rockford Public School District, West Aurora Unit School District, Rich TownshipHigh School District, and Harlem Consolidated School District supported by the Illinois StateBoard of Education. The main focus of the project is to provide middle school and high schoolscience, math and technology teachers with hands-on interdisciplinary experience with faculty instate-of-the-art laboratories of alternative energy, nanotechnology, fuel cell, and modernmanufacturing. The goal of the institute is to improve teachers’ content knowledge and teachingpractices in ways that increase the academic performance of their students and in ways that buildcapacity within their schools for continued, sustained student learning. Problem-based learning is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about asubject in the context of complex and real problems. The problem drives the learning, as studentsneed to acquire new knowledge and integrate with existing knowledge to solve the problem. Inthe recent years, problem-based learning (PBL) has seen significant development in engineeringand technology education. Compared to the traditional lecturing that is instructor-centered, thePBL approach is an active, student-centered, and problem-centered method. Problem-basedlearning was first applied in medical science education at medical schools. Recently, PBLapproach is used for computer network design, electronics circuit design, biomedical engineering,chemical engineering and physics. The approach has mostly been used for university students.but has not been applied adequately to train middle and high school teachers. This paper describes the alternative energy section in the ETI project. In particular, thepaper presents the experience of a structured problem-based learning approach to teachalternative energy to middle and high school teachers. First, the learning objectives wereidentified. Each participant will discuss the key facts and engineering applications related tosolar power; demonstrate understanding of the relevant electric safety when working with solarpower system; demonstrate understanding of basic concepts of electric voltage, current,resistance, power and energy; demonstrate understanding of correct procedure to measurevoltage, current and power in solar and wind power systems; have increased ability to designalternative energy systems; and write solar and wind technology-based lesson plans to use in hisor her classroom. Second, problem is defined based on the learning objectives. A problem ofsolar powered flashing light was given to the teacher participants. Small groups of two teacherparticipants worked collaboratively. The team brainstormed and discussed methods to solve theproblem. The faculty member facilitated the learning process and provided consulting to theteacher groups when necessary. Through the group design project, participants demonstrateunderstanding of relevant electric safety issues and increase their ability to design and implementalternative energy systems. Details of the design, computer simulation and implementation willbe included in the full paper. Examples of lesson plans from the teacher participants will also beincluded in the full paper.Submitted to the ASEE 2012 Conference and Exposition for the Energy Conversion and Conservation Division to be peer reviewed October 7, 2011

Guo, L., & Tahernezhadi, M. (2012, June), Problem-based Learning in the Training of Middle and High School Teachers in Alternative Energy Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21823

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