Chicago-based utility Commonwealth Edison is honoring Black History Month by involving African-American high school students in projects surrounding solar energy and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
ComEd held its fifth annual Solar Spotlight program this month. More than 90 local high schools participated in the event, which both highlights renewable technology but also explores the STEM training and job opportunities for black students using hands-on projects.
“We use innovation and inclusivity to help solve problems in our communities, power our society and shape the future of our planet,” said Joe Dominguez, CEO of ComEd. “Our youth are our most valuable resource as we take on new challenges in a changing world. Solar Spotlight is designed to empower students in their STEM interests and be a force for positive impact in the world.”
The high school students worked alongside STEM professionals, including ComEd engineers and executives, to learn about solar energy technology and participate in hands-on activities to see its real-world application. On Saturday, they built solar cells to power miniature streetlights at the ComEd Training Center in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.
Dominquez and Candice Smith, engineering director with Boeing, shared their stories with the students. Dominguez previously has noted that ComEd has spent $3.3 billion with certified diverse suppliers. ComEd also will hold a student STEM event this Saturday, February 15.
While demand for STEM professionals is growing in Illinois, African-Americans remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce. In 2018, African-Americans held less than 5 percent of STEM jobs in Illinois, despite making up more than 14 percent of the state’s population, according to the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition.
More than 200 students have participated in the ComEd Solar Spotlight program for Black History Month over the past four years. It is the first in a series of STEM programs that ComEd leads each year.
In the summer, ComEd’s Icebox Derby will challenge Chicagoland girls to turn recycled fridges into electric racecars, and in September, ComEd will host a second Solar Spotlight program during Hispanic Heritage Month.