Middle school students learn about energy, careers at CORE4 STEM Expo

Mia Trevino, an eighth grader at St. Anthony Catholic School, cranked a generator handle as classmates gathered around and CPS Energy Journeyman Lineman Juan Medina explained what was happening.

The faster she cranked, the brighter the light in the miniature house became. Mia and her classmates were learning how power is generated and distributed.

More than 3,500 middle school students and teachers from inner city schools in San Antonio participated in the 5th Annual CORE4 STEM Expo last week, hosted by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The conference featured professionals from the energy, science, computer, automotive and aerospace industries with the goal of encouraging students to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

CPS Energy developed hands-on activities that focused on the application of math and science in the energy industry for the conference. This is the fourth year the utility has been a sponsor, said Lori Johnson, director of corporate responsibiilty.

“By investing in STEM education today,” she said, “CPS Energy is investing in the next generation of energy industry leaders and innovators.”

Students attended five different learning stations to get hands-on information about power generation, metering and energy usage calculations, solar energy, electric vehicles and electric safety. Again this year, girls and boys attended on separate days, in part to give girls the opportunity to explore STEM-related fields without the pressure of more boisterous boys present.

To kick things off, Stephen Tips, a CPS Energy retiree and former power generation engineer, spoke to students about career opportunities available at CPS Energy.

One learning station introduced students to different types of energy sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear power, wind and solar. With the use of an interactive power source table, students learned how energy is generated and transmitted by being able to trace the power from various generation stations to substations then distribution lines in order to provide power to a home. CPS Energy volunteers were on hand to explain the process and answer the student’s questions.

“I hope the hands-on experience will spike the student’s interest in math and science,” said Susan McClure, sixth and seventh grade math teacher at St. Anthony Catholic School. “Those subjects are much more inviting when they can touch them.”

Another station introduced students to solar powered batteries; the girls charged a small battery-powered car, and then proceeded to race one another. Alesha Pryor, an eighth grader from Idea Carver Academy, said she enjoyed learning about solar capacity storage — “and racing the miniature solar cars!”

CPS Energy journeyman servicemen also participated, with a bucket truck on site to discuss the equipment they use to perform their jobs. Students were able to try on and experience the challenge of working with the large safety gloves. They also got a safety lesson, including never to touch a downed power line, and never climb a transmission tower or utility pole.

Jessica Nortman, a math teacher at Whittier Middle School, appreciated how CPS Energy learning stations “helped make connections from what we are learning in class to how it applies to everyday life.”


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Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

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