High school teams sought for new solar competition

UPDATE: The deadline for team registration has been extended to October 13!

High schoolers throughout our service area are invited to join in the first annual SunPowered Student Challenge, a first-of-its-kind statewide solar energy competition.

Founded by the Kansas Rural Electric Cooperatives (RECs), Pitsco Education, and Ten80 Education, and inspired by an idea from Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative CEO Mark Scheibe, SunPowered Student Challenge is structured similarly to other STEM-themed student competitions such as First LEGO League and KidWind Challenge.

As solar power becomes more prevalent, there is an ever greater need to educate current and future electricity consumers about responsible home energy production, jobs in the industry, and relevant degrees. The SunPowered Student Challenge equips students with real-world knowledge and industry practices while ensuring they have a good understanding of the importance of sizing systems correctly.

“The reality of our industry is that solar is here to stay,” Scheibe said. “It’s important that we start teaching our future members early about how solar can be helpful and also some of the challenges it creates when used the wrong way.”

Teams of two to four students will start this fall to work through approximately 20 hours of curriculum materials with the help of an adult facilitator and a base materials kit, building their skills and knowledge along the way. Then, next February, teams from across the state will gather in Topeka to perform real-time challenges, present findings, and prove their solar energy knowledge in front of industry professionals.

Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative is seeking to sponsor four student teams—one from each of our director districts—that will receive their curriculum and materials kit at no cost. Sponsored teams must include at least one student from a family served by Heartland.

Here are the details for those interested:

  • WHO: Teams of 2-4 high school-age students will compete against teams across the state!
  • WHAT: You’ll use a base materials kit and curriculum to prepare for the competition. The curriculum will take approximately 20 hours total to complete – consider it a fun extracurricular club!
  • WHEN:
    • September 28, 2023: Deadline for online registration
    • October 5, 2023: Adult facilitator training in Wichita
    • February 5, 2024: Statewide, in-person competition in Topeka
  • WHERE: You’ll prepare for the competition on your own time in your own area, wherever makes the most sense for your team.
  • HOW: Register now through September 28 at https://www.pitsco.com/ SunPowered-Team-Registration.
    • The registration fee for each team is $200.
    • Heartland will sponsor four teams, meaning the teams will receive their materials kit and curriculum at no charge (a $1,000 value)
    • Please contact Doug Graham at dougg@heartland-rec.com or (620) 724-5526 if you are interested in Heartland sponsoring your team.
  • WHY: Win a GRAND prize and have tons of fun connecting with your community while learning how solar energy works in our state. Plus, you’ll get to meet electric industry professionals at the competition, where you’ll get a chance to talk shop and perhaps learn about a career path option.
  • THEN WHAT? You keep your kit at the end of the competition to reuse next year! In 2025, there will be two levels of competition. Stay tuned!

Visit Pitsco.com/SunPowered-Challenge to learn more. Contact Debra O’Doherty, Pitsco Events Coordinator, with any questions at dodoherty@pitsco.com or 800-835-0686.