PG&E Grant for High School Electric Auto Shop

High School students from Stockton enjoyed a week of special electric car assembly training in Sebastopol this March as part of a grant program from PG&E to help young people find careers in green energy.

The overall idea of the pilot program is to provide a practical, hands-on project for high school students to stimulate their interest in math and science-based careers. The $20,000 grant from PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) was used in the development of an advanced curriculum for green energy technologies along with an internship for previously graduated students. It includes an electric vehicle kit along with all the coursework and videos for a 16-week course in the classroom and auto shop.

This group of students and instructors received specialized training in the assembly the Switch 3-wheeler. Graduates of the course will then use the same course next year and in future classes to teach returning students. The course was organized by Electric Auto Shop (http://www.electricautoshop.com) with instruction provided by Peter Oliver of Switch Vehicles (http://www.switchvehicles.com) in Sebastopol, California.  The high school students also showed the car to engineering students at Sonoma State University.

ChassisLab electric car course teaches kids math and science.

Switch Electric Car at Sonoma State University

“This [class] is kind of a hybrid, because we have three instructors and nine students,” said Nathan Ahmed, an instructor with Venture Academy. “So, we go through some parts, but skip other parts that we can go over in the classroom and just get right down to building the actual vehicle.”

The Venture Academy Family of Schools in Stockton, California is among the California high schools that have been selected to participate in a new energy partnership academy pilot program. The green energy academies are the result of a partnership between the California Department of Education and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The goal of the partnership is to effectively prepare students for opportunities in the rapidly growing energy sector and to provide a learning experience that is academically rigorous with a real world focus.

“This is a rigorous assignment,” says CTE instructor Jeannine Huffman with the San Joaquin County of Education. “This is what our kids need to be doing, and then from here they’ll be able to learn to teach themselves.”

Huffman said it’s not just building the vehicles, it’s the process that helps kids learn. They worked as teams assembling the high voltage controllers and dashboard, installing and wiring the batteries, as well as mounting the electric motor. Such team exercises promote problem solving while teaching collaboration and teamwork.

Huffman added: “I had one student who dropped out, he had been at the academy for 2-1/2 years, dropped out in December. As a class we went and found him and said, ‘We want you in this class, we want to give you these internships, we want you to come and do something like this.’ And he came back and if you look at him now, he was wavering on his commitment to graduate and he wasn’t doing well in his classes, and now he really wants this opportunity that PG&E has made possible for us. So from here, if you take a look at the evidence, this is the evidence that shows the learning that’s going on. He can’t take his hands off of it; it’s like they’re glued.”

In a recent news piece, PG&E staff stated that a main goal of the New Energy Academy is to interest students in energy careers so that one day they might consider a career with PG&E.

Learn more about the course at Electric Auto Shop.

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About Alex Campbell
“Alex” is a creative writer, editor, blogger, and digital marketing professional seeking freelance opportunities in marketing, communications, social media, public relations, investor relations, government relations, sales and service. Offers over 20 years experience elevating brands, sharing stories and driving sales for interesting, innovative and disruptive products, services and new technologies.

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