Clemson and Duke Energy are hitting the road this fall behind the wheel of the Explore Mobile Lab, an innovative approach to educating middle school students across the Palmetto State about the critical and growing field of engineering.
The mobile STEM lab, made possible by a $400,000 gift from Duke Energy, was created to educate and engage young scientists and engineers who will be the future workforce for industries that will power communities in the 21st century.
“As Duke Energy and other utilities build the smart-thinking grid of the future, having great minds on our team who understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics will be critical to our success,” said Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president. “Engineers will lead our efforts to build the smarter energy infrastructure necessary for our state. I cannot think of a better partner than Clemson University to work with on this project, and I know our efforts together are going to raise interest in the field of engineering as a career for young students across our state.”
The Explore Mobile Lab was unveiled at a ceremony in July with leaders from Duke Energy, Clemson and the community alongside seventh- and eighth-grade students participating in the Project WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) summer camp on campus, which also is sponsored by Duke Energy.
The mobile lab will be managed by the University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. Student-focused activities are designed to show students how the math and science they learn in the classroom apply to real life.
Brad Putman, the college’s associate dean for undergraduate studies, said the lab’s goal is to help fix the “leaky pipeline” between school and industry. The drip tends to start in middle school, when the difficulty level rises and students start taking separate classes. That’s when some students start to peel away from the high-level math and science that are foundational to engineering.
This initiative comes at a time when demand for engineers continues to increase as government and industry work to meet the needs of a growing global population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of engineering is expected to grow as much as 10 percent in the coming decade.
The Explore Mobile Lab will be making its way to 159 middle schools across the state beginning this fall.