By Ellie Gabel
Photo by : Unsplash
STEM education is critical for the long-term success of electric vehicles and clean energy. These industries remain relatively new to educators and students alike. Expanding coverage of electrification technologies will ensure the next generation has the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to positive, long-term growth in sustainability initiatives.
Why STEM Education Is Crucial for Electrification
STEM education is a pillar of learning today. It’s at the core of nearly every job in Industry 4.0 and will be essential to the success of electrification initiatives. Quality education is one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which also emphasize affordable clean energy.
World leaders are putting education center stage in the transition to renewables for several reasons. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, lawyers, business executives, inventors, doctors, engineers, skilled trades professionals and more. Clean energy is relevant to everyone and impacts every job field. All students should understand how it works and why it matters.
Today’s students also include the next generation of renewable energy experts, in the lab and the field. Introducing clean power concepts to kids of all ages increases the likelihood of sparking interest and enthusiasm for technologies vital to the world’s future.
Students must be able to access high-quality STEM education in schools today. Otherwise, they are likely to encounter potentially misleading or false information online. Misinformation is creating significant obstacles for clean energy initiatives worldwide, so it’s vital to ensure students can decipher climate facts from incorrect information.
Developing and expanding green power and EV infrastructure will require collaboration across numerous generations. Education is the key to ensuring future generations have the knowledge to support innovation and growth in the renewable energy industry.
Strategies for Strengthening STEM Education
What strategies can educators and STEM leaders use to improve science and technology education in the years ahead? All aspects of STEM/STEAM are important, but a few core areas will be crucial for ensuring the success of electrification initiatives.
Update Trade School Programs
The skilled trades are critical to the future of electrification. Trade school programs need support to prepare the next generation of experts on renewable energy and EV infrastructure.
On the one hand, skilled trade professionals have the important job of installing and maintaining renewable energy equipment. Educational institutions need to develop training programs specializing in renewables. These workers can also help drive innovation in the industry and ensure electrification is always improving for new and old technologies.
Remembering that electrification is part of big-picture goals to slow and reverse climate change is crucial. The world must update older technologies to be more sustainable and shift to renewables. This includes many of the technologies skilled trades professionals specialize in.
Electrical utilities infrastructure is a great example. Aging equipment requires new solutions to reduce emissions as the world updates electrical grids for renewables. Effective STEM education enables utility professionals to implement creative strategies for improving sustainability throughout the grid.
For example, conventional electrical transformers are some of the most grid’s most vital and expensive components. Maintenance choices like using clean, biodegradable natural ester fluid for coolant can improve sustainability in existing grid infrastructure while the world transitions to renewables.
Expand Access to Learning Experiences
One of the main stumbling blocks of STEM education today is a lack of accessibility, often based on a student’s location or socioeconomic background. Kids’ ability to engage with STEM still relies heavily on the financial resources of their school or parents.
As a result, students from families who can afford to live in wealthier school districts tend to have better access to science and technology education.
The same uneven distribution of STEM resources can’t apply to electrification infrastructure if leaders want to build an equitable future. To ensure the greatest positive impact from electrification, it needs to be accessible to everyone.
The internet is helping many STEM education initiatives close the accessibility gap. For example, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory regularly hosts free, interactive science lectures for students. It uses YouTube to allow anyone, anywhere, to watch the lessons live, even if they can’t attend in person.
Build Electrification Resources for Educators
Discussions around STEM education often focus on students, but teachers, parents and school administrators also play a vital role. The quality of the learning experiences they can provide depends heavily on their training, knowledge and experience with new and emerging niches of STEM. That includes electrification topics, such as EVs and renewable energy.
Educators need support to provide students with high-quality teaching on these topics. Many EVs are still outside the affordable price range of the average teacher. Studies show EV owners remain wealthier than the average American, often making $100,000 per year or more. Renewables are more attainable but still usually confined to homeowners.
Electrification leaders must work with educators to help them provide engaging, hands-on learning experiences, regardless of socioeconomic status. This could be anything from bringing real EVs to a local school for a guest presentation or inviting students to visit a local solar power farm.
Education and the Clean Energy Future
Renewables and EV infrastructure are fantastic tools for slowing climate change. They will require generations of skilled, knowledgeable experts in many fields to ensure the world can achieve ambitious sustainability goals. High-quality, equitable, accessible STEM education is the key to making this happen and building a clean energy future for everyone.