Space Coast Education Community Celebrates Its 20th Year Recognizing Exemplary Science Teachers

COCOA, Fla., August 17, 2018 — The University of Central Florida congratulates seven outstanding science teachers who received the distinguished Exemplary Science Teacher Award from the Space Coast Science Education Alliance (SCSEA) on August 7 at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC). The award is given in recognition of Brevard County teachers who continually go above and beyond the norm to educate their students in science.

The 2018 SCSEA Exemplary Science Teacher award winners are Michelle M. Berry, Endeavour Elementary; Roger Cohen, Gemini Elementary; Jennifer Cotton, Titusville High; Jeffrey Higginbotham, Rockledge High; Angela Lambert, Harbor City Elementary; Aaron Mitchell, Bayside High; and, Tammie Rutkowski, Riviera Elementary. Roger Cohen and Tammie Rutkowski were also inducted into the Exemplary Science Teacher Hall of Fame, as this was their second award.

Photo of 2018 Exemplary Science Teachers and Brevard County administrators
Pictured from left to right (teachers are holding their awards) are: Loren Kingsley, District Secondary Science Resource Teacher; Aaron Mitchell (Bayside High); Jeffrey Higginbotham (Rockledge High); Jennifer Cotton (Titusville High); Tammie Rutkowski (Riviera Elementary); Angela Lambert (Harbor City Elementary); Dr. Mark Mullins, BCPS Superintendent; Michelle Berry (Endeavour Elementary); Michelle Ferro, Elementary Science Content Specialist, and Roger Cohen (Gemini Elementary).

New BCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Mullins presented the unusual “awards” that drew much excitement from the recipients. Each teacher received a Triceratops fossil that had been carefully mounted as a display piece by the Academy of Natural History Preparation, a nonprofit science education organization located in Rockledge. In addition to the elegant banquet provided by Renaissance Catering, each teacher received an honorarium and a one-year membership to a science education organization, such as the Florida Association of Science Teachers.

The inaugural SCSEA Exemplary Science Teacher awards banquet was held in 1999 at FSEC. “When we started this program 20 years ago, it was to encourage exemplary science teachers to keep up the great work and for the Space Coast community to say thank you for the sacrifices that teachers and their families make. That goal remains the same,” said Susan Schleith, SCSEA Treasurer and FSEC K-12 Education Program Director. The great science teachers that we have in Brevard are a key reason Brevard is among the top Florida school districts in science.

“The importance our businesses, industry and other organizations place on science makes Brevard County a very special place to live and work”, said Ginger Davis, retired BPCS Science Coordinator and SCSEA Vice President. That was evidenced by the numerous sponsors from across the Space Coast that made the awards program and banquet possible. Gold sponsors were Brevard Zoo, Canaveral Council of Technical Societies, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Solar Energy Center, Lockheed Martin, STEMScopes Florida and the Viera Company. Silver sponsors were Academy of Natural History Preparation, Discovery Education, Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill.

A new award, the Informal Science Educator Award of Excellence in tribute of Elizabeth Melvin was also announced at the dinner by Jennifer Thompson. Brevard County is known for strong science education outside of the formal classroom, too. Organizations like Brevard County Parks and Recreation, Keep Brevard Beautiful and the Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department, where Mrs. Melvin last worked, contribute greatly to science literacy.

The evening had other special moments including recognition of Suzanne Leslie, retired from the Eastern Florida State College Planetarium and Observatory, for her support of the Exemplary Science Teacher Awards Program. For well over ten years the awards banquet had been held at the Planetarium in Cocoa, which is closed and may not re-open due to hurricane damage. John Latherow, who recently retired from Satellite High and who is a past Hall of Fame winner was recognized for his years of service and was invited to continue to inspire others by becoming a member of the Space Coast Science Education Alliance.

The SCSEA is a nonprofit representing organizations and individuals who work together to improve scientific education and STEM literacy in Brevard County. For more information about the Exemplary Science Teacher Awards or SCSEA, please visit www.spacecoastscience.org.

For more information, please contact Susan Schleith, SCSCEA Treasurer and FSEC K-12 Education Program Director, at susan@fsec.ucf.edu or 321-638-1017.

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UCF 1 of 6 Nationwide Teams Selected to Lead Research Partnerships for High-Performance Housing

Interior of townhouse with staircase by front door. Return air grill under on side of staircase with mini-split ac unti above front door.
This mini-split air conditioning unit is located as close as possible to the central return grille of the existing system to help with room-to-room air distribution.

By Sherri Shields

COCOA, Fla., July 11, 2017—The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of six nationwide teams selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $3.7 million to study how to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ) in homes.

The selected projects are expected to lead to improved home energy efficiency and smarter home operation for millions of American families, saving money on their energy bills while improving health and comfort.

UCF will get more than $870,000 for two, two-year projects, which will be led by the university’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cocoa, Fla. The center is a leader in energy research, with three decades of energy and buildings research, technical assistance, and training experience. It’s expertise has led to it being named a DOE Building America Program’s Industry Partnerships recipient.

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FSEC Earns 2017 ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes Market Leader Award

COCOA, Fla., June 30, 2017—The University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center® has earned an ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes Market Leader Award in recognition of its continued commitment to providing our nation’s homebuyers with ENERGY STAR® certified homes.

EnergyStar Market Leader Award 2017 Certified Homes logo
Home nergy raters submitted 2,905 home energy ratings through FSEC software services in 2017.

Each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® Certified Homes program presents Market Leader Awards to outstanding partners who have made important contributions to energy–efficient construction and environmental protection by building or verifying an outstanding number of ENERGY STAR® certified homes. As a rating provider, Florida Solar Energy Center® (FSEC®) contributed 2,905 ENERGY STAR® certified homes in 2016, which is equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by 4,915 metric tons.

“FSEC is pleased to be recognized for this award on behalf of the energy raters who worked with builders to achieve ENERGY STAR-labeled homes and registered their ratings through our software services,” says Robin Vieira, director of Buildings Research at FSEC.

The expert team of FSEC trainers and reviewers, working with energy raters, are an integral part of FSEC’s success as an ENERGY STAR® provider. In addition, FSEC’s innovative EnergyGauge software “automatically computes the necessary ENERGY STAR calculation to make determining the energy efficiency level of compliance easy,” explains Vieira.

The partnership between FSEC and ENERGY STAR® has been a lasting one. “FSEC helped EPA launch the ENERGY STAR® for Homes program in 1995 and will continue to work to research energy-efficient methods and to educate the building industry on best practices,” added Vieira.

The ENERGY STAR® program helps businesses and individuals save money and protect the environment through superior energy efficiency standards.

Learn more about ENERGY STAR at https://www.energystar.gov/about.

Review the full list of ENERGY STAR award winners at https://www.energystar.gov/about/2017_energy_star_certified_homes_market_leader_award_winners.

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PR17-05

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Permit-Ready Solar System Certification Now Faster and Cheaper

GO SOLAR Florida. Express PV Certifiction System. Fast. Permit-Ready. Low-cost. https://scp.fsec.ucf.edu/
Express PV Certification now FREE until the end of June.

COCOA, Fla., June 19, 2017— Contractors installing photovoltaic (solar electric) systems in Florida can now obtain permit-ready documents in a matter of minutes, thanks to a new online express solar certification system developed by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)®.

The database-driven, web-based Solar Certification Portal will process inputs from professional engineers and contractors licensed to install photovoltaic (PV) systems in Florida. The output includes an electrical schematic and supporting equipment documentation—which complies with prevailing codes and standards—certified by FSEC and ready for use in the building permit process.

Express system certification only costs $150—a $100 reduction over the current manual system certification fee. Tier 1 PV systems (10kW or less) are eligible for express processing.

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Energized Students Infectious at Statewide Renewable Energy Competition

COCOA, June 5, 2017—Nearly 50 schools across Florida—from Key West and Tallahassee—participated in this year’s EnergyWhiz competition last month at the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center.

More than 115 teams, which included nearly 500 students, prepared their projects for competition: model-sized solar cars for the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS), solar ovens for the Cook-off, full-scale photovoltaic panels for Energy Innovations, energy-efficient animal homes for the Critter Comfort Cottage competition, and go-cart-sized electric cars for the Electrathon.

In the longest running event, JSS, cars underwent inspection, design judging, time-trials, and new this year, team interviews. “Questions from judges may sometimes be intimidating, but interviews give students the opportunity to shine when they’ve put their heart and soul into a project,” said Guytri Still, JSS lead design judge and former middle school science teacher.

Long table with students on one side, inspectors on other side. JSS car being weighed in.
Junior Solar Sprint cars are inspected and weighed. Credit: Selina Black

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Permit-ready Solar System Certification Now Available Within Minutes

Close up view of photovoltaic panels
Express Photovoltaic System Certification Now Offered

COCOA, Fla., June 1, 2017—Contractors installing photovoltaic (solar electric) systems in Florida can now obtain permit-ready documents in a matter of minutes, thanks to a new online express solar certification system developed by the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)®.

The database-driven, web-based Solar Certification Portal will process inputs from professional engineers and contractors licensed to install photovoltaic (PV) systems in Florida, and produce an electrical three-line schematic and supporting equipment documentation—which complies with prevailing codes and standards—certified by FSEC and ready for use in the building permit process.

In an effort to encourage licensed contractor and engineer feedback, a two-week introductory period will allow use of the new express system free of charge. Beginning June 16, each system certification will only cost $150, a $100 reduction over the current manual system certification fee.

Manual PV system design certification is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. The new express PV system certification process is expected to dramatically reduce the time and costs associated with permitting rooftop PV systems in Florida.

This new express online certification system results from a three-year program sponsored by Broward County with funding from the US Department of Energy’s SunShot program. FSEC was one of several team members of the Go SOLAR Florida initiative that was established to develop policies and procedures to standardize solar energy permitting and remove institutional barriers across the state of Florida, thereby reducing soft costs associated with rooftop PV system installation.

Access the Solar Certification Portal at https://scp.fsec.ucf.edu/. For questions, contact pvsystem@fsec.ucf.edu or 321-638-1457.

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PR17-04

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Solar Cars, Cookers and Inventions Compete at EnergyWhiz on May 13

By Sherri Shields
April 25, 2017

COCOA, FL–Elementary, middle and high school students—from Florida’s Panhandle to the Keys—will show off their solar cars, cookers and inventions during EnergyWhiz on Saturday, May 13th.

EnergyWhiz logo
EnergyWhiz – a forum for students to demonstrate their science, technology, engineering, art, and math capabilities through hands-on, energy-focused projects and activities.

EnergyWhiz is a day-long event that showcases sustainable and renewable energy-focused products with real-world purpose that are designed, built and demonstrated by teams of students. Each project category requires students to share what they have learned with their peers, the public and industry professionals who also serve as project evaluators. Creative thinking, scientific know-how and effective communication skills all come into play at EnergyWhiz.

The 15th annual event is held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Cocoa campus of the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Eastern Florida State College, at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), 1679 Clearlake Road. The event is free and open to the public.

DJ Chill Will—the world’s first solar-powered DJ and also a full-time, middle school environmental science teacher—will be emceeing the event in the morning. He will also be demonstrating photovoltaic equipment components and functions, teaching
scientific concepts behind photovoltaic technology, and educating on the applicability of using renewable energy to reduce environmental impacts. Food trucks and a showcase of electric vehicles will also be at EnergyWhiz.

Competitions will include: Junior Solar Sprint, Energy Innovations, Solar Energy Cook-off, and the Electrathon.

  • The Junior Solar Sprint is a competition that challenges elementary and middle-school students to design, build and race model solar cars. Awards are given based on vehicle design, quality of craftsmanship, innovation and vehicle speed.

    Female student and male student at the starting line of the Junior Solar Sprint yellow track, racing their model-size solar cars. Female student's car is slightly ahead of male's car.
    Students design, build and race solar-powered cars in the Junior Solar Sprint. Credit: Sherri Shields
  • The Solar Energy Cook-off challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to design and build solar cookers and cook a recipe of their own creation using the power of the sun.  In Top Chef-style, each dish will be judged by a panel of experts based on taste, ingredients, presentation and creativity.

    One male student positions the solar cooker while the other male student stands behind the cooker, stands behind the cooker, facing the sun and uses his hand to determine the path of the sun in relationship to the cooker.
    Tracking the sun to position the solar cooker is crucial in keeping an optimal oven temperature for cooking. Credit: Cheryl Carson
  • The Energy Innovations program is a full-scale solar electric design and marketing challenge for middle and high school students. Each participating team designs and constructs a product or artistic work powered by photovoltaics, also called solar electric cells. Teams also create marketing pieces—such as brochures, fliers, and posters—to accompany their products.

    Solar panels arranged on a pyramid designed of PVC tubing that sits inside a child-sized swimming pool with water in it.
    Energy Innovations challenges students to design, engineer and market full-scale, solar-powered devices that have real-world applicability. Credit: Liza Robles
  • The Critter Comfort Cottage competition challenges students in grades 4 through 12 to demonstrate their understanding of energy efficient and eco-friendly building design for a pet of their choosing.

    Students design energy-efficient and eco-friendly homes for pets in the Critter Comfort Cottage. Credit: Cheryl Carson
  • The Electrathon is a competition for high school students and older. The go-cart-type vehicles, powered by an electric motor and batteries, must be skillfully designed, built and driven to maximize distance traveled within a given time limit.

    Six electric go-cart-style cars starting the race in a parking lot.
    Go-cart-type electric vehicles are skillfully designed, built, and driven to maximize distance traveled with a time limit. Credit: Alik Smith

This year’s EnergyWhiz sponsors include: Florida Power & Light Company, Duke Energy, Publix Super Market Charities,  Airport Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, American Muscle Car Museum, LifeStyle Homes, Solar-Ray, Inc., and Smart Electric Power Alliance.

“The success of EnergyWhiz is in large part due to our volunteers and sponsors,” said Susan Schleith, K-12 Education Director at FSEC. “Whether you can spare a couple of hours or the whole day, you can help make EnergyWhiz a continued success.” Volunteers and sponsors can sign-up at: http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/go/energywhiz.

For more information about EnergyWhiz, visit http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/go/energywhiz, watch a video about the EnergyWhiz at http://vimeo.com/9522310, or contact Susan Schleith, K-12 Education Director, at susan@fsec.ucf.edu or Sherri Shields, Communications Director, at sherri@fsec.ucf.edu.

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PR17-02

 

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Lincoln Middle School Bowls Over the Competition – Again!

By Susan Schleith

Middle school science bowl teams from across Florida met at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida (UCF), in Cocoa, Fla. on Saturday, March 4, 2017, to compete in a high stakes science competition. The Space Coast Science Education Alliance (SCSEA) Middle School Science Bowl is one of 50 competitions nationwide that yields a regional winning team that advances to the National Middle School Science Bowl competition.

2017 Regional Champions, National Science Bowl
Abraham Lincoln Middle School Team I members from Gainesville, Fla. earn the National Science Bowl 2017 Regional Champions title. Pictured left to right are Avery Bernstein, Amy Cao, Bill Zhao, Sarthak Roy, Atharva Pathak, and Coach Sheryl Buchanan.

Twenty teams worked through numerous rounds of questions until eight Florida teams were remaining. The finalist teams then competed in double elimination rounds responding to questions in the following categories: General Science, Earth and Space, Life Science, Energy, Math, and Physical Science.

Those eight finalist teams included: two teams from Abraham Lincoln Middle from Gainesville, two teams from American Heritage School in Plantation, Central Middle from West Melbourne, DeLaura Middle from Satellite Beach, Falcon Cove from Weston, and Westglades Middle from Parkland.

American Heritage Team Black offered strong competition for the Lincoln Middle Team I. Ultimately, Lincoln Middle Team I’s extensive knowledge, experience, and speed on the buzzer paid off with the win.
1st – Abraham Lincoln Middle School Team I, Gainesville
2nd – American Heritage Team Black, Plantation
3rd – Abraham Lincoln Middle School Team II, Gainesville

“The students were impressive, not only in their science and mathematics knowledge and skills, but also in how well they conducted themselves.  All were gracious, whether they won or lost.  It gives me great hope for the future!” said Jennifer Thompson, Secretary for the Space Coast Science Education Alliance.

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UCF and ICAMR Capture DOE Award for Cost-Competitive Solar Energy

September 14, 2016
By Barb Abney

A University of Central Florida-led team will receive $1.1 million to develop new manufacturing processes using a specialized tool that will bring the U.S. a step closer to achieving its goal of affordable photovoltaic (solar) energy.

UCF researcher, Kris Davis, stands next to the ACPVD system that deposits metal oxide material onto silicon wafers.
UCF researcher, Kris Davis, stands next to the ACPVD system that deposits metal oxide material onto silicon wafers.

The project, led by Kris Davis, a research engineer at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, will largely take place at the university’s International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research in Osceola County where the tool will be among the first to be installed when the building opens in spring 2017.

Making the research manufacturable was critical to getting the federal funding and having the state-of-the-art facility in Osceola County where process engineers will be on staff to manage the equipment was also imperative, Davis said.

“This is the future,” he said of the process his team will use to ultimately produce thousands of solar cells an hour in and without the costly and cumbersome vacuum-based deposition processes typically used to convert silicon wafers into solar cells. Read more

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