(SWEETWATER, Texas) – They climbed. They rappelled. They toured. They created energy.
For 133 eighth grade students from the Floydada, Hamlin and Roscoe school districts, they learned the importance of renewable energy during Texas State Technical College’s inaugural Wind Awareness Day on Wednesday, October 5.
“This is part of our Texas Regional Pathway Network grant, in which we are charged to set up a network in our region to focus on renewable energy pathways,” said Andy Wilson, the program director for Collegiate Edu-Nation (CEN). “Today was an opportunity to expose our students to renewable energy and a great way to showcase the TSTC campus.”
Part of CEN’s mission for its member schools, which include the three represented at Wind Awareness Day, is to provide career pathway options and network with higher education institutions and industry partners, Wilson said.
Pedro Payen, Floydada’s eighth grade science teacher, was excited for his students to see the opportunities available in wind energy.
“This is a new experience for our students. We are able to show them other careers that will give them a successful future in life,” he said.
Several of TSTC’s industry partners told students about potential salaries, travel opportunities and benefits of working in renewable energy.
“We wanted to show the students what we do every day and why we love it,” said Matt Fulton, Clearway’s lead technician for the Mesquite Star wind farm in Fisher County.
Fulton and Mark Howell, Clearway’s site manager of the wind farm, helped students climb and rappel down TSTC’s turbine simulator. Fulton said it was an opportunity for his company to talk with younger students.
“We have been talking to many students about what we do, but this is one of the first times we have been able to show younger students what they can do,” he said. “The first thing we told each student was that safety is paramount.”
Students and teachers took turns in the simulator, and they were also able to see firsthand how energy is produced in the KidWind Project area. KidWind representative Kathy Jackson set up several tables with activities for students and adults.
“Our goal is for the students to have fun and learn,” she said. “We set up activities that show students about the electrical grid and what supplies it.”
The activities included using electricity generated from a tabletop turbine to power a hand-held fan.
“The adults like to do these activities just as much as the kids,” Jackson said.
Rene Ralston, TSTC’s director of dual enrollment, was pleased to see the students’ responses to each station.
“The students were so engaged and had a blast,” she said “They loved everything we were able to provide, especially the KidWind Project and climbing our tower.”
Billie Jones, TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology statewide lead, said having TSTC’s industry partners as part of the event helped students realize the many job opportunities associated with renewable energy.
“It was great to have our partners here to show students what is possible,” she said. “They were able to answer questions from the students who were interested in learning more.”
The job outlook for the wind energy industry is bright. According to onetonline.org, the need for wind turbine service technicians in Texas was predicted to increase 83% between 2018 and 2028. The average annual salary for a technician in Texas is $51,560, according to the website.
TSTC’s Wind Energy Technology program offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and a certificate of completion at the Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.