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Scott Anderson has big plans for his physics students at Juda High School.

While they have already served as project managers for the installation of solar panels on the school roof, Anderson wants to teach them how to do the work themselves. He figured a good start would be the recent Wisconsin Solar Educator Academy at Madison Area Technical College, where he and other teachers got hands-on training in solar electric photovoltaics.

“When (we) hired a contractor, I didn’t have to understand how it works,” Anderson said. Now, “I can safely guide them. Three years ago, I couldn’t have.”

This is the first year MATC has put on the academy designed for teachers at high schools and two-year colleges after receiving a National Science Foundation grant and another, smaller one from the Wisconsin Distributed Resources Collaborative.

At the academy, 14 teachers learned how to install and commission a residential-size solar photovoltaic array. In addition, they learned hands-on classroom lab activities to teach solar energy in their classrooms.

“We are trying to give them resources, knowledge and lesson plans in those areas,” said Joel Shoemaker, an instructor in the academy and at MATC. “There are some who have installed a solar system at their school and there are some who don’t know much about electricity at all.”

Teachers came from around the state and Kentucky to attend the three-day academy. Their expenses were paid and they received a $150 stipend when they completed the course.

Jeff Leider, who teaches Advanced Placement physics at Janesville Craig High School, said theories take up much of the courses he teaches, but he would like to add some labs. He also saw a personal benefit from attending the academy.

“I’d also love to do this to my own home,” said Leider, adding that in turn would help him teach his students.

Shoemaker, who teaches renewable energy and the electrical apprenticeship at MATC, hopes to offer the course again next year.

“I’m always looking for new ideas for different labs I can implement,” said Jay Schroeder, a technology and engineering education teacher at Columbus High School. “We’re always looking at where we can bring in the math and science.”

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