Westar STEM Innovative Curriculum
2018 Westar Energy STEM Innovation Awards
Three $3,000 grants to support innovative project-based instruction in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are available from Westar Energy.
This is the fifth year for the grant program, and funds can be used to increase student interest and academic achievement in the STEM disciplines as applied to electrical energy. A focus on increasing the diversity of students involved in STEM education is of special interest area.
Westar Energy is the leading electric utility in the Midwest, dedicated to investing in the communities served and developing partnerships that invest in their current and future workforce.
The awards are a partnership between Westar Energy, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) and Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). A selection committee composed of personnel from Westar Energy, KASB and KSDE will select the winning applicants.
Submission deadline is July 13. Awards will be announced August 1-3, and award checks will be mailed August 31.
All grant recipients are recognized during the KASB Annual Conference and asked to present a breakout session on their project.
About Westar Energy
Westar Energy, the leading electric utility in the Midwest, is dedicated to investing in the communities we serve. Specifically, we are developing partnerships that allow us to invest in our workforce – both current and future. As a part of this effort, we developed a partnership in 2014 with the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) to create the “Westar Energy STEM Innovation Award.”
For more information other award programs offered by Westar Energy, see https://www.westarenergy.com/
STEM Pals: An Intergenerational Learning Partnership, Lincoln Elementary School, Hays USD 489, Hays, Kansas. Monica Dreiling, 5th Grade Teacher, Elaine Rohleder, Principal
Fifth grade students will explore electrical engineering and sustainability concepts by developing projects and conducting experiments under the mentorship (via monthly meetings) of residents with interest/expertise at a local assisted living/nursing home facility. The projects will include designing pencil box alarm circuits, solar cookers, hot air balloons, Bess Beetle penny pulls, electric boats to race in water, and holiday trees made from circuits for their intergenerational team members to display in resident rooms.
Students will also explore global environmental challenges. Projects will include using solar cells to create a seven-inch house and a solar panel system that collects, stores, and uses solar energy; creating and building a working solar still to desalinate water to address water shortages; and building a testing a working oil containment boom to clean up an oil spill.
As part of their assessment, students will create digital portfolios with project plans, photographs and presentations describing the learning process. These will be shared with peers, younger students, families, other community members, and their intergenerational pals.
Ascent: STEM Outreach for Underrepresented Minorities, Lawrence Free State High School, Lawrence USD 497, Lawrence, Kansas. Julie Schwarting and Sandhya Ravikumar
This project funds research and engineering projects for the new Ascent outreach project designed for underrepresented groups in the study of science, technology engineering and math and related careers.
Students will study the science behind clean energy innovation and design a 1000-watt wind turbine for Lawrence Free State High School. The students will be responsible for gathering data and evaluating the ideal location for installation, then build the turbine and connect it to an outdoor commons area/charging station. Demonstrations of the project will be given to the district’s kindergarten through eighth grade students.
Three key objectives of the program are increasing exposure of underrepresented minorities to STEM fields and encouraging entrance into STEM-related post-secondary education; providing educational support for minority students, including special programs, tutoring, networking, and research projects in energy development and conservation; and expanding career counselling for students who face inequalities in entering research/development programs for topics such as climate change research and clean energy innovation.
Lighting the River, Eileen Caspers, director of school and career programs, Topeka USD 501, Topeka, Kansas
Students enrolled in the Topeka Public Schools STEM Energy pathway will research and design lighting for the soon-to-be constructed Oregon Trail, a part of the Kansas River Restoration Project in Topeka. A specific goal of the program and the STEM Energy pathway is to increase enrollment of females and ethnic minority students in this area of study.
The Kansas River Restoration Project is a community-wide initiative with participation by City of Topeka, Shawnee County, the State of Kansas, the Topeka-Shawnee County River Front Authority, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, the Topeka Housing Authority and Heartland Visioning. The students will join the project committee and participate in the Riverfront Authority Park Development process by proposing their ideas of alternative energy forms for lighting of the Oregon Trail Park.
2016 Grant recipients/projects include:
“Powering the Future of STEM,” Blue Valley-Randolph High School, Blue Valley-Randolph USD 384, Ruth Hutson, science teacher. This hands-on learning project will center on four sources of energy production in Kansas: coal, nuclear, wind and solar. Students will explore how electricity is generated and provided to consumers, and guest speakers from each of the four related industries will help students connect to career potentials. Projects will include designing a circuit board and building a miniature house to demonstrate how electricity travels from the power plant to a home; exploration of how radiation is created and controlled in a nuclear reaction; designing and testing a wind turbine; and finally, tracking the sun’s path to determine the optimum angle for energy generation by a solar panel. Students will also design a solar panel bank and determine how much water can be pumped over a set period of time using both parallel and series circuitry.
“After-school STEAM with Wind, Jewelry and Electricity,” Cottonwood Elementary School, Andover USD 385, Shari Rooks, principal. A new after-school program focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) will focus on environmentally friendly energy, magnets and electricity. Students will study how energy is produced and creative ways to use electricity. Hands-on projects will include designing wind turbines and studying circuitry. Students will then create electric bracelets and artwork using their new knowledge. An electricity art show in May will include a fashion show for the bracelets and an art display.
“Electrical Education,” Schlagle High School, Kansas City USD 500, Mike Allen, teacher, Nathan Litka, student. In a project-based learning environment, dubbed Schlagle Research and Development, students will study the nation’s power grid by focusing on the wires and power stations that deliver electricity. The project will include both generating and consuming energy. Students will build a portable, working model of the U.S. power grid system that can then be used by other classes and schools to learn about the power grid. The mini-grid will include working outlets where students can plug in devices and monitor system-wide changes. The mini-grid will also be used to demonstrate alternative energy sources, including solar, human, wind and propane generators. Because the power grid is a working model, students will also learn how to monitor consumption and manage voltage for greater efficiency.
“Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WEST),” Washington and Cedar Creek elementary schools, Olathe USD 233, Olathe, Kansas
WEST is an after school program for fourth and fifth grade girls. The program will focus on exploring the engineering process and the field of electrical engineering using a number of resources, including the “Engineering is Elementary” curriculum developed by The Museum of Science. The focus is on women in engineering careers. Students will gain not only an understanding of the concepts required for STEM careers, but also learn about women who are leaders in the various disciplines. A particular goal is to increase the students’ confidence and interest in engineering, leading to future study.
“Wind Energy: EmPOWERing Girls into STEM Careers,” Amelia Earhart Elementary School, Goddard USD 265, Goddard, Kansas
This project focuses on fourth graders and provides resources for students to build their own wind turbine using motors, corks, cardboard and rulers. Voltmeters and fans will then be used to test the designs. A part of the project includes a presentation and demonstration to classmates and visitors. Resources used will include reusable kits that provide hands-on experiences in the field of engineering. The kits include the K ‘NEX Education Exploring Wind and Water and the K ‘NEX Education Investigating Solar Energy.
“Biofuels: Finding Real World Solutions,” Topeka USD 501, Topeka, Kansas
The grant will be used to fund and equip an environmental science/energy lab for the Topeka Center for Advanced Learning and Careers (TCALAC), leading to the creation of a new career pathway open to all Topeka high school students in energy and environmental science. The project outlines three goals, supported by the grant and through community partnerships: (1) Using the scientific method, investigate real world solutions using local natural resources to produce cost effective biofuels. (2) Form partnerships with community organizations, such as waste management and parks and recreation agencies, to use as information resources. (3) Create hands-on learning projects that will serve as a foundation to expand elementary and middle school curriculum used to recruit students into STEM Energy Career Pathway.
Parsons USD 503 | Bryan Walker, Student; Bruce Rea, Drafting and Design | Parsons High School HUMVEE - Electric Humvee Charging Port
The next phase in a project started eight years ago that resulted in a student-designed, engineered and constructed three-fourths scale Humvee that uses only renewable energy to operate. The idea for a car-port style charger is now ready to go from concept to fully operational using solar panels as the renewable energy source.
Wichita USD 259 | Hannah Kelderman, Science Department Chair | Wichita North High School Physics for All Students: Building a Bridge into STEM Careers
All students are now required to take biology, chemistry and physics. The school plans to use the CPO Science Lab Data Collection Starter Kit as a part of the curriculum to help teach real-world applications to non-traditional physics students. One of the goals is to help guide students into considering STEM careers.
CLICK HERE to download RFP form (pdf form) and award criteria.
- April 23, 2018 – RFP Issued
- July 13, 2018 – Proposal Deadline
- August 1-3, 2018 – Awards Announced
- August 31, 2018 – Award checks mailed to recipients.
- December 1, 2018 – Preliminary report due to Westar Energy and KASB (includes presentation at 2018 KASB conference).
- December 1, 2019 – Summary Report due to Westar and KASB.
Successful applicants will be teachers or administrators in KASB-member districts.
- This award is intended for resources needed for individual classroom projects, or projects sponsored by school-affiliated, STEM-themed clubs and organizations. If more than one classroom is undertaking a similar project, only one grant per district may be awarded.
- Upon completion of the projects, recipients will provide a written summary with samples of class work and photographs to Westar Energy and KASB.Curriculum and instructional materials will be property of both Westar and KASB.
- Further, recipients will present their project during a session of the annual KASB conference in December.
- Successful applications will include projects dealing with science, technology, engineering or mathematics in the context of the generation, transmission or distribution of electrical energy.
Requests that incorporate the following components are of the greatest interest:
- A focus on electricity, electrical production and conservation in Kansas.
- Designed to improve, advance and enrich student learning while growing their interest in STEM.
- Designed to spark interest in STEM disciplines among students from non-traditional or underrepresented groups (i.e. ethnic minority and female students).
- Provide activities that support student application of classroom STEM knowledge to practical applications.
- (New this year) Successful applications will have a significant element of community service woven into their proposals.
- Clearly explain how the items requested for funding are vital to the project’s successful completion.
- Clearly articulate a plan to complete the projects during the coming academic year.
What is not supported by this grant:
- Salaries or compensation for outside speakers, guest presenters or any school personnel.
- School laboratory supplies or equipment for general school use.
- Media equipment (computers, cameras, DVD players, white boards).
- Projects that require multiple academic years for completion.
- Admissions fees and stipend for conference, workshops or competitions.
- Transportation, incentives, meals and refreshments.
- Previously funded projects from past winners.