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The course will be conducted in partnership with the Energy Coordinating Agency in Philadelphia.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

The School of Engineering and Applied Science will offer a new Academically Based Community Service course called "Energy Education in Philadelphia Schools" in spring 2020.

The course will be conducted in partnership with the Energy Coordinating Agency in Philadelphia, which provides vocational training in energy-related jobs and gives energy efficiency assistance to low-income residents in the city. Students who take the ABCS course will visit the ECA to learn about energy use and the organization's work in energy efficiency. As another part of the course, students will use information from their visits to the ECA to teach a group of AP Environmental Science students at West Philadelphia High School about energy use.

The course, open to undergraduates, will be taught by Professor Andrew Huemmler, a senior lecturer in chemical and bimolecular engineering who serves on the Board of Directors for the ECA.

While the logistics of the course are being finalized, Huemmler said, the class will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and will also require students to attend the high school class outside of the ABCS course. 

Huemmler currently teaches several energy courses at Penn — "Energy Systems and Policy," "Climate Policy and Technology," and "Electricity Systems and Markets."

College sophomore Maeve Masterson, who is currently in Huemmler’s "Energy Systems and Policy" class, said that students in the course are able to discuss energy and environmental-related events in the city such as ongoing issues with the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery. Masterson said Huemmler's new ABCS course is important in educating young people about energy efficiency and energy use.

Huemmler said there have been Engineering ABCS courses in the past, but this is the first course to be directly related to energy education. He hopes that Penn students who are trained in advocating for energy efficiency can encourage high schoolers to reduce their energy use.

There are ways high school students can address the climate issue and reduce their carbon footprint, and there are also numerous careers in the energy industry that they might want to pursue," he said.

College senior Katherine Poole said she has enjoyed learning about environmental management and sustainability in Huemmler's course, and decided to become a teaching assistant for the new ABCS class. Poole is currently helping develop the curriculum and overall vision for the course.

Besides learning about energy efficiency and the STEM principles behind energy sciences, Poole said she hopes that the course can foster engagement between Penn students and the Philadelphia community. 

“It’s so easy for Penn students to get stuck in the Penn bubble, but it is important for Penn students to have the appreciation that there is a community at large, and there are people in much different situations than at Penn," Poole said. "Having both engagement with the ECA, as well as high school students, is such an important thing for Penn students to experience."

Poole also agreed with Huemmler in that she hopes younger generations can gain insight into energy efficiency and get involved in addressing the global energy crisis.

"If we can get high school students to start thinking about this, then I think it speaks to the importance of the issue and the message will progress and will affect our lives moving forward," Poole said.