High school students learn summer lessons at NAU

As high school juniors throughout the region get started with a new school year, some students will have broader perspectives on emerging technologies.

NAU’s Dynamic and Active Systems Lab partnered with the Upward Bound Summer Academy program to engage high school students in energy harvesting and development of drone technology. The lab is part of NAU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

“The 23 students spent four weeks on campus at NAU learning about climate change, energy science and engineering,” said Karin Wadsack, project director in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability. “They tested solar panels, built electrical circuits, participated in a wildlife-tracking hide-and-seek exercise and learned about renewable energy through hands-on activities with the Arizona Wind for Schools program.

Another student activity was working with unmanned aerial vehicles. NAU researchers Michael Shafer and Paul Flikkema were awarded a $601,896 National Science Foundation grant to produce a UAV system, which will be shared with wildlife biologists who want to improve their systems of tracking and monitoring wildlife.

“Participating students benefited from working with the UAVs,” said Jacob Lesandrini, an instructional specialist with the Upward Bound Program. “Additionally, they were pushed to understand the science behind energy, energy consumption and the future of energy use in the country.”

Organizers say the high school students enjoyed learning about the Dynamic and Active Systems Lab, which received another NSF grant to develop and test energy harvesting technologies for use on marine mammals.

The Summer Academy is a residential program to introduce high school students to the university environment and academics. During the school year, NAU’s Upward Bound staff spend time in area schools offering students training in soft skills, support and college preparation activities.