On the morning of July 25, 2016, students from four San Jose high schools arrived at San Jose State University for the first San Jose-based SunPower Solar Energy Academy – a week-long intensive training program, where students would learn the ins and outs of the solar industry and gain exposure to STEM careers.
Kicking off the week, Renee Solari, Program Manager of SunPower’s Educational Services, led the students through a quick orientation, explaining that this experience should be treated like a real job. Before lunch, the students had already learned all the solar energy basics and had completed their first hands-on activity – the solar panel and circuits assembly. Students then split up into groups, created a company name, slogan, and logo, and were introduced to their clients for their final project.
The following day, the students came back energized and ready for more. With the knowledge from the previous day, the students went on a sustainability tour of Santa Clara University led by SVTP’s intern and current Santa Clara University student Steven Harrison. Rather than only hearing about the academic aspect of the school, the students dug deeper and learned about the school’s various sustainability features. Students also partook in a Twitter challenge, during which they tweeted about the various features they saw. Teams with the most tweets and the most creative tweets won special prizes. That afternoon, students returned to the lab and started computing the layouts for their residential solar systems.
On Wednesday, Bill Yates, Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, gave a very informative tutorial on financial literacy and money management. Following that, the students toured San Jose State University’s campus. In the afternoon, students listened to an inspiring story of Bobby Ram, Managing Director of SunPower. Liz Chung, Associate Manager of SunPower, followed with a talk on the various financing options for potential customers interested in installing a residential solar system.
On Thursday, guest speaker Kristel Wickham, who has been with SunPower from the very beginning and pioneered the company’s growth initiatives, shared her personal story and career path at SunPower. She also gave an overview of various SunPower careers and emphasized the importance of STEM education. Afterwards, students got their hands dirty and transformed regular flashlights into rechargeable flashlights – many utilized power tools, drills and soldering irons for the first time. In the afternoon, Oscar Garcia led the students through a LinkedIn tutorial, unveiling the cool features that could help them with their college applications and job search.
The final day’s presentations culminated a long week of preparation when the students delivered their final sales pitches in front of families, friends, and a panel of judges from different professional backgrounds such as engineering, business, and education. After a whirlwind week of hard work, the students produced excellent results and impressed the audience with a high level of creativity and professionalism. After the presentations, students got face time with each of the judges when they got a chance to learn more about their respective backgrounds and picked their brains for career advice. Councilman Raul Peralez captured the students’ attention and inspired them with his story, underlining the importance of education and how it can transform their lives. The graduation/awards ceremony concluded the day by honoring the students’ efforts and work.
Both students and parents alike were very grateful for such an exciting and eye-opening opportunity. The academy not only gave them an exposure to the field of renewable energy and sustainability but also offered a glimpse of a potential solar or STEM-related career path – a future that they might not have imagined otherwise.
Watch the Academy Overview video.
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