Each year, the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Engineering Week reminds us of the importance of supporting future engineers and their endeavors. EPSA members have long shown their commitment to the future of engineering by backing STEM initiatives, research partnerships to advance the energy transition, providing college scholarships, and more. Below, read how the nation’s competitive power sector has contributed to the engineering sphere both in their local communities and on the national stage.
In 2021, Vistra received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, in collaboration with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), to study opportunities for Malta Inc.’s thermal energy storage systems to further contribute to the energy transition using the nation’s existing energy system. Vistra, Malta, and SwRI agreed to examine ways thermal energy storage can enhance the environmental and economic performance of natural gas-powered power plants, balance power generation from a diverse energy mix on grids, and make the electric system more reliable and resilient. The third goal is especially important given how prominent the conversation around grid resilience has become over the past year, but it also serves to facilitate increased integration of intermittent renewable resources.
STEM education is also a key focus area of Vistra’s community giving. Partners include K-12 programs with a strong STEM focus along with education foundations and scholarships broadly related to environmental education and power generation.
In addition, Vistra partners with nonprofit Comp-U-Dopt, and has thus far provided 3,000 computers to underserved youth and families in Dallas, Fort Worth, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Vistra’s efforts represent a step toward closing the digital divide across the country while encouraging students to expand their horizons to new subjects, including STEM. Vistra CEO and Comp-U-Dopt Board Member Curt Morgan said, “Laptops and tablets are no longer a luxury; they’re a necessity for learning in today’s society. Our company is proud to support the work Comp-U-Dopt is doing to provide access to computers and digital-based education to underserved students – leveling the technological playing field, closing the digital divide, and setting our next generation up for more equitable success.”
Every year, the children of NRG employees are eligible for up to $60,000 in scholarships each to pursue their field of choice, including engineering. As part of the company’s larger commitment to social responsibility and community impact, employees regularly volunteer with high school students through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Students can gain valuable confidence and insight into multidisciplinary pathways for their futures through this partnership.
In 2020, NRG gave $250,000 to educators through DonorsChoose. One of the schools impacted by this donation was Delaware’s Delmar Middle and Senior High School. A 6th grade science teacher at Delmar wanted to keep her class engaging and fun during the pandemic, while still helping her students retain what they learn. Using the grant from NRG – and with a hand from the Delmar science club – this educator collected materials for 200 electricity and magnetism kits for a new lesson with a twist. Students greatly benefit from exposure to STEM from a young age, and this teacher’s initiative sets an example for others looking to encourage students to pursue a career in engineering.
Shell, the parent company of Shell Energy, offers educational resources online for educators and students, as well as quizzes and other interactive features through its mobile app to teach users about Shell careers. These resources help teachers put their curriculums into action, bringing engineering principles to life. The Shell Oil Company Technical Scholarship and Shell Incentive Fund Scholarship offer up to 20 one-year awards of $2,500 to high school seniors enrolled in engineering or geoscience programs at selected institutions. Finally, Shell is a longtime sponsor of the National Science Teachers Association and its National Lab Challenge, which recognizes outstanding middle and high school science teachers with extensive laboratory makeovers. Laboratory updates can empower teachers and their students to take their studies further and explore the engineering world.
To date, the company has awarded over $900,000 in scholarships nationwide to students who live in communities where its plants operate. In 2021, Tenaska expanded its scholarships to include three new annual awards offered through public high schools located near its headquarters in Omaha and Dallas regional offices. These include: the Tenaska STEM Scholarship, awarded to students pursuing a degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; the Tenaska Diversity Scholarship, awarded to a minority student pursuing a four-year degree in Finance, Business, Human Resources, Public Relations, Accounting, or a related field; and the Tenaska Empowering Women Scholarship, which is awarded to a female student pursuing a four-year degree in these same fields.