Each summer we run a research program for participants to learn about solar cell manufacturing and to conduct research on improving solar cell performance. After going through basic training on how to make a silicon solar cell, the larger group splits into teams to research a special topic on solar cells.
This year the program has significantly expanded from previous years. We now have 24 participants taking the program under the guidance of five graduate student mentors. We have also extended to the time that people work on the projects to eight weeks.
Solar power is booming and we use the summer program to educate on the technology behind the solar cell. To reflect the broad use and impact of solar power in the community, the program is a very inclusive environment and participants come from a range of back grounds and varied educational levels. Young Scholars from high schools get their first taste of what it is like to do research in a university cleanroom. The majority of the program consists of undergraduate students from both community colleges and universities. These students get to explore new concepts in solar cells design an fabrications. We also have STEM teachers who take what they learn over the summer back to their classrooms. At the graduate level, students who have been studying the device physics of photovoltaics have the opportunity to make a solar cell on a pilot production line and explore the issues and challenges involved in taking a new technology from a lab and into commercial production.
From the laboratory to the classroom.
One of the features of the 2015 Summer research programs is making connections between basic solar energy research and community education. Kyle Rawlings, a faculty member at Scottsdale community college, not only participates as a full member of the research team over the summer but also recruit students from his physics classroom to participate in a research. Kyle investigates how engineers apply the physics concepts he teaches every semester, alters his coursework to ensure students who are coming from his classes have the foundational knowledge to be able to participate in solar energy research, and reflects with other instructors but best peak teaching practices. Kyle indicates that this program rejuvenates him every summer. Kyle's enthusiasm for this program spread to his students not only who apply for and participate in the QESST summer program. Exposure to research and university life motivate students to complete their associate degrees and continue on to engineering bachelor's programs. One of the mentors for our undergraduate program, Michael Minjares, was a community college participant last year. After transferring to ASU he contingent to do research in the lab will be spending the summer working with community college students on their research projects. Students participating in the full 10 week research program will be presenting their work at the crystalline silicon workshop.