Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Program Hosts Detroit Students For Clean Energy Camps

HOUGHTON – Michigan Tech’s Summer Youth Program is hosting two groups of PAAMEE students from the Detroit area for week-long, hands-on summer camps on clean energy. One group was at Tech last week; the other is on campus this week.  

The PAAMEE program, funded by National Science Foundation (NSF), runs 1.5 years for each group. It is a collaboration among the Detroit Area Pre­College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), Lawrence Technological University, Michigan State University, Oakland University and Michigan Tech.

On the students’ first day at Michigan Tech, they learned to make batteries from lemons. Two of the participants, Jamyl Washington and Ari Smith, explain that they used copper and zinc electrodes—attached to the lemon with little alligator clips—to power a small LED light. A simple chemical reaction pulls electrons from the zinc to the copper through the lemon.  Simple, but not easy.

“It can be frustrating because you’re constantly refining the process,” Smith says, though he thinks that holding a volt meter to a lemon battery and similar hands-on lessons are the best way to learn science. “I know the gist of the topics we’re learning about, but now I’m getting into topics in-depth.”

During his Saturday classes downstate, Smith took on a project about biofuels; Washington studied geothermal energy. They both say the PAAMEE program has done more than teach them about the STEM concepts of energy production.

“You can’t give up so easy,” Washington says as advice to future PAAMEE students, adding that he thinks the attitude applies to more than a figuring out a finicky class experiment or sticking to a long-term project. “With renewable energy, the science is there, but our systems aren’t—it’s not about what to do, but how to do it.”

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