The past week has been very positive. I was able to collaborate more with the IBM Team again, and through that, we have a solid portal for students to access with a CSV download option. Next Friday, I plan to meet again to be trained on how to add new sites to the portal and to hopefully tweak the data stream a little more to include the array temperature instead of the ambient temperature.
In addition to this, the FREEDM and ASSIST Centers held a symposium for the REUs that participated at each center this summer. I was asked to also create a poster and present at this symposium in which a representative from NSF was in attendance. The benefit of creating this poster is that I was able to step back and streamline exactly what goals we are striving for to reinvigorate the GRIDc project. In addition to the lesson plans I am doggedly working on, GRIDc helps students to learn about renewable energy and to interpret data in the classroom which will help to prepare them for the future in such a data-rich world tackling so many environmental problems.
One other activity I had was visiting the Advanced Transportation Energy Center (ATEC) Lab, get a quick tour of the facility, and watch Dr. Pritchard and an REU work on the Vehicle Dynamometer. They overhauled the sensors on the Dyno so they were now looking as more pure data which will help them to analyze drivetrain systems for various vehicles. Two of the vehicles in the lab were a full electric Porsche Carrera convertible and the NC State EcoCar, a hybrid Chevy Malibu. I had worked with Dr. Pritchard in the past through the EV Challenge when my students and I converted a Mazda RX-7 into a full EV, so this experience was very nostalgic, to be back in a lab, working on some cars.
Last, but certainly not least, was the Design Thinking workshop offered by IBM. This was a great professional development opportunity, not just to learn the concepts of design thinking from other perspectives and professionals at IBM, but also to network with other Kenan Fellows from previous classes. Though I use design thinking with my students in our activities and projects, we mainly look at it through the lens of an engineer trying to solve a problem. In this workshop, we were able to see that there is a much bigger picture to design thinking, primarily in seeing the overall problem through the lenses of each stakeholder.
All of these steps in the process of my experience through Kenan have reinforced the fact that we are all lifelong learners, that we should find something new each day that expands our horizons or gives us deeper insight to the topics that interest us.
Over the past few weeks, there were several elements that helped me make progress. Though I was out on vacation, as was Dr. Pritchard, our schedules did not coincide, so we had limited communications for the project. This, however, gave some of the other contributors time to get their components of this project some attention, so a little down time for me was a good thing on many levels. My mentor, Dr. Pam Carpenter, was able to provide some valuable feedback to help me keep the project moving in the right direction. Alexis was able to update the material for the solar array display, which looks significantly better. I was able to talk with Dr. DeLuca, a former professor that was the PI for the GRIDc project a few years back and made some headway at bringing that back to a meaningful state. Robby, the programmer at IBM, was able to pull the data together from the FREEDM Center’s solar array and created a portal that could be added to easily as more arrays come on line. This was probably the biggest contribution in the past two weeks, as one of our main goals is to make this data available to students through IBM’s cloud services. I was able to develop some graphics for the lessons as well as meet with some other Kenan teachers to get feedback for the project.
This was my first full week at the FREEDM Systems Center as well as the week after training at NCCAT with the rest of the Kenan Fellows.
A few roadblocks occurred; I attempted to contact WCPSS facilities about the solar array at WFHS – DEAD END (so far). The solar array at FREEDM is at best “glitchy” – the inverters constantly power down which makes it difficult for the team at IBM to create their analytical software.
Moving Forward; Alexis, the Undergraduate Researcher that I am working with, has been working to stabilize and update the interactive display. He has also kept in touch with the IBM team and has been contacting an engineer to troubleshoot the FREEDM solar array inverter issues. I have been given a lot of creative flexibility for now, so I put together a proposed lesson outline for Kenan that I plan to incorporate with the research and data. I also completed one of the ten activities for students that fits within the lesson.
Future plans – I plan to submit my lesson outline to Dr. Pritchard upon his return. I also plan to investigate other avenues for tracking down the WFHS solar array data and send out a few emails toward that goal.
I cannot possibly describe how deeply honored I am to be chosen as a Kenan Fellow. As I listen to the other teachers around the room, I feel inspired to dive deep into this program and make this a truly extraordinary experience. The Kenan Institute training was probably the best week of professional development I have had in my career. I hope others have a chance to experience this in years to come.