Teens explore STEM careers and create Art for Bronzeville solar pyramid

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STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN a hands-on demonstration as they create solar powered panels at the ComEd Training Center in Chicago.

Instead of sleeping in late or any other number of leisure activities a teenager might do on a Saturday morning, 60 African American high school students from Chicago and Rockford got up early to spend the day exploring at ComEd. They discovered interesting facts about solar energy, African-American trailblazers and the earliest forms of STEM in African history.

For the fourth year, ComEd has enlisted the support of community partners, youth organizations and schools in Chicago and Rockford to select students to participate in the ‘Solar Spotlight’ seminars. This program is part of ComEd’s annual Black History Month campaign to provide stimulating seminars that expose students to non-traditional and ‘unexpected’ STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.

It’s usually no easy task to keep that many students genuinely engaged, however that has never been the case with this program. According to ComEd’s Vice President of External Affairs Melissa Washington, ComEd does a lot of planning to make sure the students get the most out the program including ideas about their future career plans. The program this year took into consideration the creative talents of the students as they explored STEM by utilizing art.

Held at the ComEd Training Center in Chicago on February 4 and February 11th students had the opportunity to tour the facility and learn about careers in energy, as well as hear from remarkable and inspiring people. Isaac Akridge, who is ComEd’s Vice President of Operation was one of those people. Akridge and Washington were joined by other ComEd executives and employees who volunteered for this program. Many are members of Exelon African American Resource Alliance (EAARA), who are also ComEd employees that served as student mentors for both education seminars.

The seminar curriculum introduced renewable energy concepts, featured the multiple uses of solar energy while also providing students with the opportunity to work directly with experts in solar and STEM fields, including ComEd mentors.

A Black History themed profile about the women featured in the movie “Hidden Figures” was presented to highlight African Americans who have excelled in the STEM industry.

The ‘Solar Spotlight’ campaign will also highlight activities and student participation in a series of billboard, print, and digital advertisements throughout the month of February.

Students participated in an interactive presentation on Ancient Egyptian culture presented by Dr. Rashid Kamau. Kamau is Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations and Inquiry at National Louis University. Not only did the students hear a brief history about the ancient Egyptian culture they learned about the people, how to interpret hieroglyphics and the STEM behind the construction of the pyramids.

Students learned about the earliest dated pyramid, the 200 feet high step pyramid designed by the royal architect Imhotep before trying to apply that knowledge to modern construction tasks.

After they learned about hieroglyphics, each student was encouraged to draw a personal hieroglyphic that represented them —like an avatar for some or a drawing or a favorite thing or dream. Shala, Creative Director of The Movement Worldwide shared with the students his inspiration for the art they were creating that would be incorporated into a permanent 7-foot solar powered Art Installation in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

Gallery Guichard, Bronzeville’s premier gallery of art, has signed on as a partner to construct the installation. ComEd will unveil the solar art at a special ceremony for the students, their family, friends and the community in early Spring 2017.

ComEd awards each participating student with a plaque highlighting the completion of the education seminars and a financial scholarship on the last Saturday.

ComEd invites the general public to visit ComEd.com/SolarSpotlight to learn more about ‘Solar Spotlight’ and watch the 2016 student video. The public is invited to track the students’ ‘Solar Spotlight’ journey on social media by searching #comedsolarspotlight and #bhm2017.

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