Second Annual Event at Science Museum of VA Highlights Student Research on Clean Energy

The Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond hosted 80 high school students from across Virginia who presented original research as part of Secure Solar Futures’s hands-on curriculum on clean energy.

Secure Solar Futures hosted the second Annual Throwing Solar Shade® Program Final Event on December 6, 2022, at the Science Museum of Virginia. More than eighty students from five school divisions across Virginia gave presentations on their research on solar power, heat islands and related topics they had explored over the fall semester.

“The program offers a unique opportunity for students to perform original research on solar power and the environment under the direction of a PhD climate scientist in a hands-on initiative to reduce surface temperatures in local communities,” said Dr. Anthony Smith, president and founder of Secure Solar Futures. “The research is impressive, but what sets this program apart is how much the students learn about teamwork, how to think creatively, to communicate, to increase their science skills, and to appreciate how they can help make a difference through research and  implementation.”

Involving both research and implementation, Throwing Solar Shade builds on Hoffman’s work to study and mitigate the urban heat-island effect in the city of Richmond, called Throwing Shade RVA

In conjunction with Hoffman, and to help meet the demand for hands-on STEM curricula that bring solar power into the classroom, Secure Solar Futures launched the Throwing Solar Shade Program in 2019 and was able to complete a second program for students in 2022.

“Doing citizen science as part of our larger work on urban heat islands, students get real-world experience to inspire them to pursue further study and potential careers in science and technology,” said SMV Chief Scientist Dr. Jeremy Hoffman, who helped design the Throwing Solar Shade curriculum. “Uniting students across the urban-rural divide, the program also makes connections that strengthen Virginia communities.”

Students from Wise County, Va. present research on environmentally-friendly methods for cleaning solar power arrays.

This year, high school juniors and seniors came from three separate regions of Virginia. Richmond was represented by one public school, Open High School, and an independent school, the Collegiate School. From the Shenandoah Valley came students from Augusta County Schools and the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School. Finally, from the coalfield region of Southwest Virginia students came from public schools in Lee County and Wise County. All the student groups presented thorough research projects, but many received great interest from our guests and partners.

A student group from Collegiate School presented research on topics that included reducing the carbon footprint of athletic teams with solar-powered vehicles and reusable water bottles.

City of Richmond Open High students presented how “green” roofs with vegetation combined with solar arrays can lower roof temperatures and opportunities to install solar panels as part of school building renovations and how to place those panels for maximum energy production.

Wise County students peaked audience interest with a well-documented demonstration of how to combine leaf blower technology with sophisticated computer programming to increase solar panel efficiency with eco-friendly methods of regularly cleaning solar panels.

Students from Open High School in Richmond, Va. present research on the effect of ambient temperature on the efficiency of solar power generating equipment.

The students not only learned valuable content knowledge and research skills, but also have become motivated to become change agents in their schools and communities. These students plan to share their research during student-faculty lunch-and-learn meetings on their campuses as well as formal presentations to their student governments, athletic departments, principals, superintendents and school boards. Secure Solar Futures looks forward to supporting these students in their endeavors to turn their research into reality.

“I am excited to see this program continue to grow. It has become this incredible opportunity,” said Dr. Jeremy Hoffman during the event. “I was happy to see the students interact with one another and continue to learn about environmental topics that can potentially spark their interest in future STEM careers.”

A variety of organizations provided funding and other assistance to produce the Throwing Solar Shade program. The National Educational Energy Development program (NEED) provided classroom curricula, equipment for experiments and teacher training sessions. Other partners included the Science Museum of Virginia, the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, the VCU School of Education, the Oak Hill Fund, the Rapha Foundation and Clean Virginia.

Below, you can view a photo gallery of student presentation teams at the event. Click on each thumbnail to enlarge.

Written by: Staff Author