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The EFP has three goals: contextualize and supplement classroom STEM energy-related education; prepare students for collegiate study through project-based learning; and provide an environment to learn and practice professional and academic etiquette skills. The EFP leverages support from local Teach for America (TFA) corps members, matriculation is free for students, and food and transportation are provided.
The program begins with an Etiquette Dinner, which brings participants to MIT’s campus for a business dinner with a focus on cohort building. The dinner teaches basic etiquette including formal introductions, dress codes and dining protocols and ends with an interactive lesson on energy concepts using relevant examples. The lesson begins with a focus on underlying science, but quickly shows how real-world problems require expertise across disciplines. Diverse undergraduate volunteers participate as role models and mentors.
The core of the program is a two-day project-based exploration of energy modeled after a professional conference held in conjunction with the MIT Energy Conference. Students are assigned to research teams, each representing different sources of energy generation (e.g. oil, coal, solar) and are coached by field experts. Through hands-on activities, games, supplemental materials, and mini-demonstrations, students discuss energy generation science principles, real-world advantages and implementation challenges, and concepts of cost, scale, and impacts on human safety and welfare. Participants are also introduced to how scientific and societal issues are discussed and presented in government, industry, and academia. Students attend a conference panel and have lunch with conference organizers and speakers. The workshop culminates with a showcase competition, where teams lobby for their energy source using a formal technique such as poster presentation or debate.
The EFP has demonstrated two successful pilot years at MIT, engaging over 100 students, boasting a 100% TFA teacher retention rate, and gaining the support of the Siemens Foundation and the MIT Office of Education Outreach. It is our hope that we can leverage energy and education networks to create a chapter-based model of the EFP in partnership with other academic institutions. Together with the TFA community, energy clubs across the country can share experiences and resources to conduct their own EFP conferences in order to reach a greater number and diversity of students.