Solar 2021

Policy, Education & Finance Track: Youth Energy Education and Development

Session Moderator: Rachel Romero

Youth engagement and education regarding solar and other renewables is an increasingly important part of the broader energy transition. This session will highlight what teachers and students are doing to learn about renewable energy and sustainability through a discussion of programs in k–12, higher education, and beyond. Models and best practices of activities, creative projects, hurdles overcome, and others will be shared.


Aug 05 2021


4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


East Ballroom


  • Brian Wieliczka_
    Brian Wieliczka_
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory

    Brian Wieliczka is a postdoctoral researcher at NREL studying perovskite quantum dots under the guidance of Joey Luther. He obtained a BA in chemistry from St. Olaf College before beginning his PhD at Washington University in St. Louis where he developed the first synthesis of CdSe/PbS core/shell nanocrystals and used optical spectroscopies and charge carrier calculations to characterize the nanocrystals’ optoelectronic properties.

    While a graduate student, he led the investment of ~$25,000 in energy efficiency initiatives at the Catholic Student Center, resulting in an annual savings of $18,500, a nearly 33% reduction in utility bills and carbon dioxide emissions.
    Presentation Title: Environmental Conversion at the Catholic Student Center: A Model for Church, Community, and Student Engagement

    Presentation Description: The world needs to immediately reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but this goal is often met with confusion, indecision, or ignorance when trying to identify concrete actions, particularly in organizations that are not focused on the environment. Here, I will present actions taken by the Washington University Catholic Student Center to reduce GHG emissions from electricity and gas by nearly 33% in five years. While demonstrating the viability of immediate actions to reduce GHG emissions, these projects serve as a model for university students to engage in their community, fulfilling the needs of students to gain practical experience and the needs of non-profits to gain technical assistance.

  • Bronte Payne
    Bronte Payne
    Environment America

    Bronte Payne directs Environment America’s solar energy programs and campaigns. She has worked on successful campaigns to renew federal tax incentives for wind and solar, commit colleges and universities such as Boston University, Vanderbilt University and Cornell University to 100 percent renewable energy and set state goals for offshore wind. Bronte graduated from Kalamazoo College and now lives in Boston.
    Presentation Title: Harnessing the Sun: Solar on Schools

    Presentation Description: Schools, both K-12 and colleges and universities, play an important role in our communities. To transition to 100% renewable energy and truly take advantage of solar power, we need important community institutions to play a leading role in renewable energy adoption.

    To transition to 100% renewable energy, we will also need to train the next generation of renewable energy installers, clean energy friendly policy makers and environmental advocates. By installing solar on schools at all levels of education, we can not only provide clean energy for our communities, but increased education and hands on training opportunities around solar energy.

  • Laura Tellez
    Laura Tellez
    Solar United Neighbors

    Laura has a background in environmental education, as well as solar energy. She has a Masters’ in Ecological Leadership from Lesley University and has worked for 12+ years in the non-profit and public sector. She is the South Florida Program Coordinator with Solar United Neighbors
    Barbara has an education background, working both in Miami and New York City public schools and earning her Masters’ from Columbia University – Teacher’s College. She also has worked in the non-profit field for the past 10 years and is the Executive Director of an Environmental Education program in South Florida.
    Presentation Title: Implementing and Facilitating Solar Energy Education in the Classroom

    Presentation Description: K-12 students are the future of the planet and have become powerful agents for change. They will be in the workforce sooner than we realize and will be tasked with solving our future energy needs. Incorporating solar energy lessons into the STEM curriculum at their school can lead to students finding a passion for solar energy, pursuing lifelong learning related to solar energy and sustainability, pursuing a career in those fields, encouraging and inspiring their families and communities to pursue solar energy alternatives and become solar advocates. Students’ natural curiosity for how the world around them functions can fuel a solar powered future!

  • Mark Weber
    Mark Weber
    Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES)

    Mark Weber is the President of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society and an early solar adopter on his house. Mark is a National Account Manager for Eaton Hydraulics specializing in circuit design for military and construction equipment. Mark received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from UW-Madison in 1982 and a Master’s of Science from Mississippi State University in 1996.
    Presentation Title: Engagement of youth into renewable energy programs with fun activities – Solar Powered Boats

    Presentation Description: Membership at ASES is on the right side of the age spectrum, this program will provide opportunities and information on how to engage people from the left side of the age spectrum.

  • Numair Latif
    Numair Latif

    Project-based teacher and research scientist committed to renewable energy adoption and education in the American Southwest.
    Presentation Title: Charging cars with solar energy while fueling the mind

    Presentation Description: Education is the key to early adoption of solar energy by the next generation.

  • Rachel Romero
    Rachel Romero
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

    Rachel Romero is an energy engineer and project leader at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the Integrated Applications Center (IAC). Rachel is the competition manager for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon Design Challenge, which has inspired over 5,000 collegiate students in 7 years to be the next generation to design net zero buildings. Rachel obtained her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Hope College and her master’s degree in Building Systems Engineering from University of Colorado Boulder. She received her Professional Engineer license in 2014. Rachel has been an active member of ASHRAE since 2010.
    Presentation Title: Building Innovations Complement Renewables in Solar Decathlon Competition

    Presentation Description: Innovations in buildings complement renewable energy to create a sustainable world. Collegiate competitions like the Solar Decathlon are critical to improving education across the energy and sustainability space by building capacity and skills in the next generation of buildings professionals. The Solar Decathlon leads by providing real-world, multidisciplinary skills and perspectives needed to transform the built environment into one that is more sustainable, comfortable, and healthy. The future of a sustainable built environment rests with the next generation of forward-thinking professionals; programs like the Solar Decathlon continue to serve and build capacity in this future workforce.

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