Pytel attends STEM Educator Solar Institute

July 16, 2018

Jim Pytel, electro-mechanical technology instructor at Columbia Gorge Community College, recently joined other educators from throughout the nation at the annual STEM Educator Solar Institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education. The event was held July 10-12 at Madison Area Technical College.

Participants used tools of the trade to install several residential solar energy systems and connect them to the electrical grid. Instructors explored fundamental solar and electrical principles, and learned processes to ensure electrical safety and code compliance. During the Institute, participants also practiced hands-on classroom lab activities that bring solar energy to life for students.

“Columbia Gorge Community College’s electro-mechanical technology program prepares students for careers in industrial windpower, solar, and hydropower as well as advanced manufacturing.” said Pytel. “Solar is becoming an increasingly affordable means of distributed energy production and the lesson plans shared in the STEM Educator Solar Institute will be incorporated in our power generation class.”

According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, the solar workforce increased by 170 percent in the past seven years, from about 93,000 jobs in 2010 to more than 250,000 jobs in 2017. Although solar currently makes up less than 2 percent of overall US energy generation, the sector employs twice as many workers as the coal industry.

The National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program supports the development of innovative approaches for educating highly skilled technicians for the industries that drive the nation’s economy. The STEM Educator Solar Institute strengthens connections between high schools and community colleges to help advance the solar workforce.