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School of Engineering holds Energy and Sustainability Week for high-schoolers

June 17, 2022 - Kim Delker

photo: energy week group shot

The University of New Mexico School of Engineering hosted Energy and Sustainability Week, held in conjunction with Engineering and Computing Summer Academy, for high school students interested in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM).

The events are sponsored by the Consortium of Hybrid Resilient Energy Systems (CHRES) program, which is funded through the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, in collaboration with the UNM Center for Water and the Environment and UNM faculty members who specialize in energy systems.

Elsa Maria Castillo, director of the Engineering Student Success Center, which is organizing Energy and Sustainability Week and the summer academy, said the overall goal of the energy week is to introduce participants to renewable energy and sustainability concepts and encourage students to pursue STEM careers.

During the June 13-17 event, students participated in a variety of hands-on workshops, such as building and testing their own windmill, solar car and fuel cell car. The week is filled with guest speakers in different engineering fields, as well as field trips to nearby places, including the Mesa del Sol microgrid facility, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and the UNM Center for High Technology Materials, where students learn about characterization of solar cells.

Among the faculty members who are participating are Nathan Jackson from the Department of Mechanical Engineering (who researches energy harvesting), Ali Bidram from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (who researches microgrids) and Ganesh Balakrishnan from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the director of New Mexico EPSCoR, who focuses on solar cell material characterization.

The week is held along with the Engineering and Computing Summer Academy, which concludes July 1, where students are participating in sessions on Arduinos and robots, bridge testing, quantum physics, math preparation, AutoCAD, and writing and presentations. In addition, visits to COSMIAC, the Air Force Research Laboratory and White Sands Missile Range.

These events are made possible as part of UNM’s membership in a five-year, $5 million consortium funded through the DOE/NNSA Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program. Ramiro Jordan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the principal investigator and Castillo is the co-principal investigator. Other partners in the consortium are the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez and the lead institution, Universidad Ana G. Mendez, as well as Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the National Energy and Technology Laboratory.

The goals include giving minority students research experience, including experience working in and interacting with national labs and increasing students’ knowledge of resilient energy topics. Students in the program work closely with a faculty researcher, getting access to seminars and networking opportunities or to summer internships at partner universities or labs. The ultimate aim of the program is to increase the number of minority students employed at national labs.

For questions about engineering and computing summer programs for K-12 students, contact Elsa M. Castillo or Jenilee Jao at