A Lesson in Electricity Turns Into a Day of Fun

SCE engineers host Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth students in a program on electricity and sustainability.

Explaining electricity to a group of pre-teens could be a tough sell, but My-Quan Hong had a secret weapon: a red ball.

The Southern California Edison engineer asked three of the kids to pass the ball back and forth to demonstrate the flow of an electric charge and how opposite charges attract. When she asked a student to pass her the ball, she blocked it, showing how like charges repel.

It was a simple demonstration, but one of many that engaged 27 Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth middle schoolers and their parents during a recent day-long program about electricity sponsored by SCE’s Advanced Technology group. The Center for Talented Youth is a nationwide program for gifted youth to broaden their experiences and learning.

Robert Sherick, an SCE principal manager in Advanced Technology, has a son in the youth program. He thought teaching the youngsters about electricity and renewable energy could be interesting for them. He also had the perfect location — SCE’s Energy Education Center in Irwindale.

Video Credit: Nicholas Roy

“The Energy Education Center's got a lot of things to push buttons and see lots of lights come on and different sorts of interactive opportunities,” Sherick said. “And we've got some very talented engineers from the Advanced Technology group showing their passion for what they are doing.”

The day included five different sessions ranging from how electricity works to one explaining the grid and how electricity gets transported from a power plant to your house. The students also learned about new devices for energy savings in the home.

In between sessions, the students convened as teams to apply the lessons they learned using computer apps created by the Advanced Technology engineers. For instance, in one exercise the students had to figure out the best way to save on an electricity bill that also would have the least environmental impact. 

“I believe environmental stewardship should start young in education and awareness,” said Alexsandra Guerra, an Advanced Technology engineer who brought her 9-year-old cousin to the event. “Having societal awareness of energy and its impact on the environment and their bills is really important."

The youngsters said they would be taking their lessons learned home.

“I definitely will make sure we have some CFL [lights] and maybe some LEDs,” said Cole Shankle, 12, of San Pedro.

Sherick said part of the reason for the program was to encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) studies.

"The exciting part is really just getting them curious about something they might not otherwise think too much about and possibly will look into it as a career and as an opportunity going forward," he said.