Energy Works Michigan, DPS launch solar panel project at Cass Tech

Contact: Steven Wasko at 313-873-4542; Cell: 313-212-5636; steven.wasko@detroitk12.org
or Jennifer Mrozowski at 313-873-8401; Cell: 313-401-9018; jennifer.mrozowski@detroitk12.org

Cass Technical High School students on Thursday, December 2, got a bird’s eye view of how solar energy works by taking a trip to the school’s roof to see a newly-installed solar panel array.

The solar panel demonstration was part of a series of events in Detroit Public Schools this week stressing the importance of innovations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects, including Tuesday’s rollout of the first Chevrolet Volt, General Motors’ groundbreaking electric automobile.

The first-ever Chevrolet Volt for sale is being auctioned to benefit math and sciences education in Detroit Public Schools. Bidding, which ends December 14, is already up to $180,000. The starting bid was $50,000. Go to www.bidonthevolt.com to learn more.

The panels were installed through a partnership with DPS, Energy Works Michigan and Motor City Electric. As a participant in the Michigan Renewable Schools Program, Cass Tech is receiving a grant for half of the total cost of the $150,000 project. Energy Works helped DPS prepare a grant application for energy projects. Students will be able to examine solar and energy data collected from the panels via the Internet.

The high-tech learning environment, which includes the 20 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array, will build on the strong science leadership at Cass Tech and raise awareness about energy usage in the city of Detroit. The roof-mounted system is overlooked by upper level classrooms.

The solar panel project launch and the Volt rollout coincide with DPS’ renewed emphasis on the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects, including strengthening the academic curriculum, resurrecting its relationship with the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) and increasing student access to and participation in science fairs.

“Last year, we were disheartened to learn DPS scored worst in the nation in the history of the National Assessment for Educational Progress math test. But instead of being paralyzed by the results, that energized us to strengthen academic rigor in math, science and technology subjects to ensure our graduates are prepared,” Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said.

Under Detroit Public Schools’ five-year academic plan, instructional time in math and reading is expanded to 120 minutes daily in every kindergarten through eighth-grade class.

The increased instructional time will build on the success of the district’s Summer Academy and Extended Day programs, which increased access to math and literacy courses and have allowed thousands of struggling students to catch up to their peers. The academic plan, which aims for a 98 percent graduation rate by 2015, also calls for struggling ninth graders to be scheduled back-to-back Algebra I and English Language Arts courses – called double dosing – to strengthen those skills.

The carbon reduction over 25 years is expected to amount to 870,800miles driven on an average car or 10,908 days of energy used in an average house, thanks to the Cass Tech panels. The estimated annual energy savings is $2,794 or $89,492 over 25 years with an annual 2 percent increase.

In January, a group of Cass Tech teachers will take part in a one-day workshop designed for schools that are participating in the Michigan Renewable Schools Program. Each teacher will receive a binder of lesson plans on the topics of energy efficiency, solar energy, and wind energy, and each school will also receive an energy laboratory kit that includes most of the materials and equipment required to implement the lesson plans in classrooms. Participation in the workshop component is required of all MRSP schools

As part of DPS’ efforts to build upon STEM subjects, DPS also is working with DAPCEP at the high school level to provide student workshops and help teachers and students prepare for the 54th Annual Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit, at Cobo Center March 16-20, 2011. DAPCEP already operates middle school-level programs in 27 schools.

The school system boasts a number of innovative STEM-related programs, including an all-girls competitive robotics team for high school students and Lego League for middle school students at the Detroit International Academy; and a rigorous program at Davis Aerospace Technical High School to prepare students for higher education while developing technical skills to prepare students for a career in aviation. The district also has a growing partnership with the Detroit Science Center, which now operates the Detroit Children’s Museum that is owned by Detroit Public Schools. The partnership has included free school group field trips tied to state MEAP testing objectives at the Science Center for Detroit Public Schools students and teachers and more.

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