Colorado State Team Teaches Middle School Girls about HEVs

Colorado State University Vehicle Innovation Team (CSU VIT) members Emily Keats and Allison Kotewicz participated in GESTEM (Girls Exploring Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) 2013 held in Denver, CO in April. Their workshop – titled “Hybrid/Electric Vehicles – for Girls!” – was one of 93 selected to participate in this event.

The girls who participated in the 50-minute workshop learned about electricity, hybrid cars, regenerative breaking and EcoCAR 2. Each of the three workshops consisted of 28-30 6th and 7th grade students.

The workshop included a hands-on activity in which the girls used Regenerate! kits created by Andrew Warnock of CSU’s College of Natural Sciences Education and Outreach Center. The kits are designed to help students develop a progressive understanding of energy transfer and regenerative braking in advanced vehicles. They are supported by a U.S. Department of Energy grant awarded to CSU Ventures Systems Solutions Group and the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“Having girls explore and begin to understand new technologies and the science principles that underlie them is important for them to begin to explore careers and hone their critical thinking skills. These hands-on activity kits connect the science principles to real world applications,” said Cynthia Smeraski, science education consultant to CSU Ventures Systems Solutions Group and assistant professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences (CSU). Smeraski also participated in the GESTEM event.

In general, the presentation was about energy, transportation and the environment. Specifically, it focused on the inner workings of advanced vehicles (hybrids/electric vehicles) and the science behind regenerative braking. The girls learned about a variety of careers related to this field and were encouraged to further their interest in STEM courses.

Katy McCutchan and Ariana O’Brien of Southern Hills Middle School in Boulder, CO explained that they chose to participate in the workshop because they had the opportunity to design their own future car in one of their classes and thought it was fun and interesting to learn about being more “green.”

“I really enjoyed participating in the GESTEM program. It’s such a great opportunity for girls to have some exposure to the engineering and technical fields at a young age,” said Kotewicz. “Working with 6th and 7th grade girls was a lot of fun for me as well. I loved when the girls’ eyes lit up as they discovered something new playing with the ‘Regenerate!’ kits.”

The girls were excited and enthusiastic to learn about how they could make a positive difference in the environment through advanced vehicle technology. Throughout the three workshops, each group of girls was motivated to learn about regenerative braking and eager to test out what they had learned from the kits.