Although the weather did not cooperate during Monday’s Clean Energy Day for Auburn Middle School’s Grade 8 students, the scheduled program adapted, and students got to learn about the many facets of clean energy. The Clean Energy Day was financed by an $8,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and teachers Christine Robbins and Kerry Palumbo wrote the proposal.

The clouds and rain impacted two major aspects of the day, racing solar powered cars outside and cooking hotdogs for lunch in a food truck called “Snappy Dogs.” The racetrack, built by Principal Joe Gagnon, remained in the gymnasium, and clip on lights were attached to provide the energy. The food truck used its backup power to cook, and students were not disappointed with the results.

As the students rotated through the stations, they heard from industry experts, viewed educational displays and even built solar cars in one of the STEM rooms. After the build, they got to try out their creations on the solar track with the assistance of Principal Gagnon. While some cars required adjustments, many flew across the track. Gagnon said that under daylight, the cars really move and he was considering a 40-foot speedway. MassCEC not only paid for the event but they brought along staff members to help the students with their car projects.

Craig Huntley, Chief Development Officer of Solect Energy in Hopkinton, gave students an overview of the solar industry, and he emphasized, “the cost of solar has dropped dramatically” Consequently, Massachusetts has progressed from 25 megawatts in 2010 to 1600 megawatts in 2016. The Commonwealth has been in the top ten states for solar installations for many years, and it is currently number five. This is largely because “we have expensive electricity in Massachusetts.” Huntley concluded with the potential employment opportunities in the solar industry. “We can’t find enough electricians to meet our needs.”

MassCEC’s Ceo Stephen Pike told Auburn Mass Daily that the Clean Energy Day was just one component of a longer and concerted effort to educate residents about clean energy. His publicly funded agency is committed to work force development and has coordinated over 2000 college internships at 320 companies since the agency was formed in 2009. Tamika Jacques, Director of Workforce Development, added, “We focus on many audiences.” This year, 6 schools and 1,100 students will benefit from the school grant program. The goal for next year is 10 schools, so the reach will be even broader.

Also presenting to students was Eric Moore, a Project Manager for Lamoureux Pagano & Associates, the architectural firm that designed the new Auburn Middle School. He discussed unique processes that were used during the fast paced construction of the building and the energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems. It was nice to see students engaged in a topic that can be very technical.

All in all, this was a great day for the grade 8 students, and everyone appeared to find value in one area or another.