Clement Lumanyika, a senior Electrical and Computer Engineering major, teaches middle school students from the Kansas City, Missouri School District how to build a circuit at KCP&L's Get Into Energy Camp.

Inspiring interest in energy

KCP&L partners with UMKC and the KC STEM Alliance for summer camp

Driven by a need for more job-ready candidates in power and energy fields, Kansas City Power & Light hosted its inaugural Get Into Energy camp in August at UMKC's School of Computing and Engineering (SCE).

"Most middle school students are unaware of the variety of jobs available to them in the utility industry or at a company like KCP&L," said Sarah Whitman, manager of technical training at KCP&L. "We wanted to create a fun, interactive summer camp where they could learn about the basics of creating energy, as well as get a first-hand look at how energy gets delivered to their homes and communities."

The camp was designed by KCP&L trainers and UMKC faculty members, who led middle school students from the Kansas City, Missouri School District through hands-on experiments that visually demonstrated the magic of magnetism and physics. Also supporting the camp was the recently-formed KC STEM Alliance, an independent initiative based at UMKC. Its mission is to inspire more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math and to build a robust workforce.

Mike Kelly, adjunct instructor in SCE, taught camp participants how to identify poles, magnetic fields, flux and the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Bob Riggs, instructor and outreach coordinator in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics, demonstrated the power of energy and electromagnetism with an explosive "can crusher". And Assistant Professor Daniel Leon-Salas  explained how to create paper circuits by using conductive paint, LED lights and microcontrollers.

"I wanted them to get excited about engineering and computer science, and any time students do hands-on activities, they really get engaged," Leon-Salas said. "Also, I tried to include creativity by having students draw circuit designs."

Clement Lumanyika and Tim Gitau, senior Electrical and Computer Engineering majors and Robotics Team members, also volunteered to help with the camp.

"It's good to know that as students and as people we're helping the community," Gitau said. "We're teaching camp participants about career options if they choose to become an engineer, and also how engineering can benefit the community."

Camp participants also toured Hawthorn Generating Station and the nearby Green Impact Zone. Throughout the camp, KCP&L employees led career exploration sessions that highlighted mechanic, chemist, plant operator, lineman, cable splicer and electrical engineer career opportunities with the utility.

"Businesses in this region, like KCP&L, are very concerned about the growing shortage of STEM professionals, especially in engineering and technology," said Laura Loyacono, director of the KC STEM Alliance. "They understand the need to invest more resources into developing a pipeline of future workers that can meet workforce demands."

"The partnership between KCP&L; UMKC; Kansas City, Missouri School District; and the KC STEM Alliance is a perfect example of the way we can all work together to address a common problem," said School of Computing and Engineering Dean Kevin Truman, who was instrumental in starting the KC STEM Alliance with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. "We hope to see many more partnerships like this that can benefit our kids and the region."

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"We are excited to partner with KCP&L to pilot the energy camp this summer and hope to see it grow along with other summer programs that get kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)."

Kevin Truman
Dean of the School of Computing and Engineering

A student tests a circuit board.