Ken Swayne recently packed the house with his lecture “Photovoltaics, an Alternate Energy Source.” The associate professor of Engineering Technology made the presentation as part of Pellissippi State Community College’s Faculty Lecture Series. The Goins Building Auditorium on the Pellissippi Campus was filled with students, staff and faculty from the college.
Earlier this spring Swayne made another presentation about alternate energy—but that one was to quite a different audience: about a dozen boys from the Knoxville-based UUNIK Academy. The college hosted the group for a workshop in which the participants learned to build model cars that run on solar energy.
“The youth loved the workshop, and the staff was very friendly and patient,” said Reggie Jenkins, UUNIK executive director. “We can’t wait to do it again.”
The nonprofit UUNIK Academy is a rites-of-passage program dedicated to the holistic (mind, spirit, and body) development of African-American youth in Knoxville. The primary goal is to produce responsible adults.
The workshop was the first Pellissippi State has hosted for UUNIK. It came about when Carl Wheeler, an adjunct faculty member who wanted to expose the kids to technology, asked Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology degree program for help. Swayne and Carl Mallette, also an associate professor, stepped forward.
Swayne gave the group an overview of how solar power works, and the hands-on work began.
Each boy, with the help of Pellissippi State faculty and students or UUNIK volunteers, built a simple LED circuit. The underlying purpose was to show the boys some of the skills (soldering and securing electrical connections) used by electronics technicians and to demonstrate the solar panel power capabilities.
“We let them do a little bit of soldering,” said Swayne. The boys then used the knowledge to build a solar-powered car.
“I didn’t know that cars could run on solar power,” said Kadarius Gillette, who took part in the workshop. “That was fascinating.”
Once the cars were built, the boys took a break for lunch.
“After that, they painted their cars,” Swayne said. “We had a 20-foot track where they raced them.”
To learn more about UUNIK, view www.uunikacademy.com.
Visit Pellissippi State’s website at www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400 to learn more about the college and its programs.