NSF logo

Interactive Virtual Laboratory: Using Renewable Energy Experiments to Enhance Student Engagement in STEM: 1712146

Principal Investigator: Liping Guo
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Andrew Otieno
Organization: Northern Illinois University

By the year 2050, it is estimated that Earth’s population will rise to nine billion. The accompanying increased demand for energy requires that sources other than fossil fuels (currently about 86% of the world’s energy) be found. There is growing interest in utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power for clean production of electric power. The overall goal of the project is to significantly increase the number of college graduates with renewable energy and power engineering knowledge and skills in order to ensure a well-prepared US workforce for the future. The objectives are 1) to develop a virtual laboratory for studying distributed power generation systems; 2) to create innovative teaching materials for the virtual laboratory platform; and 3) to engage college students in the mentoring of high school students on renewable energy technologies. The virtual laboratory will be interactive and engaging to stimulate students’ interest in STEM.

The proposed virtual laboratory and prototype smart grid will integrate cutting-edge power systems research by the PIs with a modern power systems educational curriculum. It will greatly improve the capacity and effectiveness to train students in the renewable energy field. The curricular enhancements and new learning materials will focus on authentic problems in renewable energy. An internet portal will be constructed to permit college and pre-college students to experiment with a distributed power generation system and collect data for engineering activities. By graphing and analyzing the data, students will acquire insight on the relative advantages of different configurations of the smart grid. The research questions to be investigated will procure answers that will result in the generation of useful knowledge about the impact of renewable energy interactive virtual labs on college students and their high school mentees. The virtual laboratory will also provide the opportunity to network with other educational institutions as well as a convenient platform for students and faculty to combine teaching and research activities on renewable energy.

Tags: ,