Students Present Ideas for an Energy-Efficient Kansas City


Partnership joined together UMKC, KCP&L, and Paseo Academy

When Jhamelah Drone talks about solar energy, she gets pretty animated. She’ll even jump into rhyme.

“The time is now. The day is here. The rhythm that you’re feelin’ is music in your ear. The charge is electric and all you gotta do is just plug it in, p- p- p- plug it in,” Drone rapped. “Show Me Energy is in town.”

The scene was a competition for alternative energy projects; the audience college professors, electric company engineers and other contest judges.

Drone isn’t the only high school student who has a passion for alternative energy. She is one of several Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts students who spent the past semester learning the ins and outs of solar energy – often going beyond typical textbook lessons and into Kansas City grocery stores, apartment buildings and schools to determine how local structures can become more energy efficient.

It was all thanks to a partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Computing and Engineering and KCP&L.  The pairing gave Paseo students access to the resources of the area’s major energy provider and the know-how of SCE professors and college students.

The weeks of mentoring and teamwork paid off recently, when the student groups presented their final projects to a panel of judges in UMKC’s Student Union. The UMKC E-Save through Automation and Education team, a group of four SCE professors who proposed and helped implement the alternative-energy-focused project, comprised most of the judging panel.

When Drone’s group – dubbed Show Me Energy — presented their idea for an energy-efficient duplex, the students talked about the importance of including solar panels on the roof. They knew the pros and cons; they argued that although solar panels would be a large upfront investment, the panels would save money in the long run through lower utility bills.

They ended their presentation with a succinct, high-energy rap, and the crowd burst into applause and cheers. The judges smiled. When they first conceived of the project, they knew its success would hinge on the students’ creativity. Now, months later, they saw creativity meld with an understanding of energy efficiency.

“The potential ramifications of this project are tremendous. When you educate the next generation about alternative energy, you are making the first steps toward a better future. The students’ ideas show that they’re ready to champion this important cause,” Vijay Kumar, UMKC SCE professor, said.

At the end of the day-long event, the group Teens in Action won the $300 first prize for their presentation on making schools more energy efficient. They designed t-shirts that include suggestions on how to save energy, and drove home the point that money saved on inefficient energy expenses could be better spent.

“Our textbooks are outdated. You open them up, and you’ll see people in them wearing bleach-washed jeans. If we can get our energy expenditures under control, we’ll be able to afford things that matter, like new textbooks and better food in the cafeteria,” a presenter said.

The presentation caught the attention of judges like SCE Associate Professor Cory Beard, who saw in Teens in Action the level of creativity he’d hoped they’d get by partnering with Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts students.

“Teams presented songs, jingles, dramas and t-shirt designs. They invested their intellectual and creative gifts into these projects, and the Kansas City community will be better for it,” Beard said.

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications. UMKC’s E-Save through Automation and Education Team includes Vijay Kumar, Cory Beard, Yugyung Lee, and Praveen Rao.


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