By Seth Maughan

At SolUnesco, “community” is one of our core values, and we make it a goal to give back to the communities in which we operate. As such, we were thrilled to recently support the learning of solar concepts at Locust Grove Middle School. The school is located just down the street from the Madison Solar Farm, a proposed 400-acre, 60-MW solar farm, on which SolUnesco worked to get zoning approval from the County last year. On May 29, I had the pleasure of visiting Locust Grove Middle School. On behalf of SolUnesco, I presented a gift of a solar educational kit and gave a short lecture to 6th and 7th grade science classes.

Susan Midland, the librarian and media specialist at Locust Grove Middle School, sponsors a monthly lunchtime STEM Explorers club for sixth- through eighth-graders. One of the concepts that she hopes to explore in the coming year is how sunlight can be converted to a usable energy source. When Susan saw an article about approval for the Madison Project in the local paper, she reached out to us with a proposal for funding towards a solar4STEM educational kit, which provides users with a portable configuration that includes materials and equipment necessary to easily conduct basic electrical, geographic, and solar experiments.

We jumped at the opportunity to make this contribution; at SolUnesco, we are dedicated to the idea that renewables are the technology of the future and are likewise committed to ensuring that the future generation is prepared to harness its potential.

After SolUnesco committed to donate the solar4STEM kit, along with an additional $250 for miscellaneous supplies, the school invited us to participate in a presentation to 6th and 7th grade science classes, the District Superintendent, and other members of the staff. We gladly accepted this invite and, last Tuesday, joined this group in the sunny courtyard of the Middle School.

L to R: Todd Satterwhite, LGMS principal, Jessica Sarver, Orange County STEM Coordinator, Josh Nicholson, LGMS TTRT, Susan Midland, Librarian/Media Specialist, Joel Cox, LGMS Vice-Principal, Seth Maughan, Director of Projects, SolUnesco, Dr. Brenda Tanner, Superintendent of Schools, Doug Arnold, Director of Facilities

SolUnesco was humbled by the gracious “thank yous” we received from Susan Midland and School Principal Todd Satterwhite. I personally relished the opportunity to briefly chat with the kids about solar energy, including the science, history, and current challenges associated with the technology—who knows, one of them may grow up to develop the next breakthrough in solar technology…

Starting next year, the school intends to use the gift to teach lessons in solar as part of the STEM Explorers Club and also as a component of their general science curriculum. Susan Midland expressed a desire to have the children measure the amount of energy generated by solar panels under various conditions and study how sunlight can be converted directly into a usable energy source or stored in a battery. Through experimentation, students will begin to understand solar energy generation and and how it stacks up with the energy needs for various, everyday items.

All of us at SolUnesco are truly honored to contribute to this cause. In addition, we applaud the efforts of the Locust Grove Middle School faculty in creating access to STEM lessons for students of various backgrounds. Critical thinking skills and expertise in STEM subjects will be requirements for addressing tomorrow’s challenges, and it is imperative that children—beginning in the middle school years—be exposed to lessons that develop and exercise these skills.

For us, this was a chance to combine our desire to contribute to our communities with our drive to prepare young citizens for the exciting future of energy. We sincerely hope to find more opportunities like this moving forward.