Annual Solar Spotlight program deepens STEM talent pipeline for African-American students
ComEd launched its fourth-annual Solar Spotlight program to expose African-American high school students to opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as part of its annual Black History Month celebration. The educational program is part of ComEd’s effort to cultivate the next generation of STEM talent in the communities it serves and create the workforce of the future.
While STEM careers are growing, African-Americans are underrepresented among people who have STEM degrees in Illinois, and the state lags the nation. In fact, the share of STEM degrees belonging to African-Americans in Illinois fell to 5.4 percent in 2017 from 6.5 percent in 2013.
Nearly 60 high school students participated in the two-day educational session and interacted with STEM professionals, including ComEd engineers and executives. Students received hands on experience with solar energy technology and learned more about STEM careers. Including this year’s program, more than 200 students have participated in the ComEd Solar Spotlight program for Black History Month.
“As an industry and region, we need to do a much better job educating and attracting African-Americans into the booming energy sector,” said Joe Dominguez, CEO of ComEd. “I’m encouraged to see these young students empowering themselves, their schools and communities, while learning about the exciting career opportunities in our industry.”
The Solar Spotlight program took place at the Illinois Tech campus on Feb. 2, and on Feb. 9 at the ComEd Training Center in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.
At Illinois Tech, the students received practical experience working with energy and solar power. The curriculum also included live solar demonstrations.
At the Chicago Training Center, students built self-contained, solar-powered grow boxes that can grow more than a pound of mushrooms a week. In building the boxes, students learned about the hardware and software that power them, including a solar power component. They also gained a better understanding of food deserts in Chicago and why some communities are at greater risk for them. The program helps students learn how they can empower themselves and their communities with resources and tools to address these harsh realities.
The assembled boxes will be delivered to the students’ schools, where they can be used as a tool to educate other students about solar energy and the issue of urban food deserts.
ComEd partnered with Sojourn Fare, a Chicago-based startup that developed the grow boxes and is leading the charge to create food and jobs where both are in short supply. Their innovation will help students gain appreciation for the real-life application of solar power while unleashing their creativity.
For more information about ComEd Solar Spotlight, visit ComEd.com/SolarSpotlight.
ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), a Fortune 100 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.