GATE Academy students use a hydrogen fuel cell to power a fan and pass a flaming splint over a test tube to test for hydrogen gas.
Every January, local K-8 students converge on HSU for the annual GATE Academy. This event, coordinated by the Humboldt County Office of Education’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program, provides GATE students with exciting learning opportunities not typically found in the classroom. SERC has participated in the GATE Academy since 2005.
This year, SERC docents Greg Pfotenhauer and Yaad Rana led 6th-8th grade students through an engaging and interactive hydrogen fuel cell lab activity. Using HyTEC equipment, students electrolyzed water to produce hydrogen fuel. They then used this hydrogen to run a fuel cell and operate a small fan. The lab activity began with a brief introduction to hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells, and the role hydrogen may play in our energy future. To bring the topic of hydrogen fuel out of the lab and into the real world, the workshop culminated in a tour of the HSU Hydrogen Fueling Station and Toyota FCHV-adv fuel cell vehicle.
SERC’s hydrogen experiment kits are now being used by chemistry students at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). The kits were originally developed as part of SERC’s Department of Energy-funded Hydrogen Energy in Engineering Education (H2E3) project.
H2E3 was initially directed at engineering students at California universities, but we have had numerous inquiries from schools outside the state interested in the equipment and curriculum. In addition, we’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that instructors in fields other than engineering find the H2E3 materials useful in meeting their own teaching objectives.
DOE financial support was also instrumental for Florida Tech in adopting the curriculum. Their College of Engineering/College of Science received DOE funding to develop hydrogen education materials including an experiment, Thermodynamics of a Hydrogen Fuel Cell, that is now used in a physical chemistry laboratory course required of all chemical engineering, chemistry, and biochemistry majors. In this new experiment, based on the SERC kits and documentation, students explore the thermodynamics and efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell and compare these results with the performance of the electrolyzer that produces the hydrogen and oxygen used in the fuel cell.
“The availability of the SERC resources has allowed the successful introduction of hydrogen fuel cells to our course with a relatively quick and easy adaptation, and the student response has been very positive,” said Dr. Clayton Baum, professor of chemistry at FIT.
The H2E3 project met its objectives and is no longer receiving financial support from DOE. However, we continue to maintain the project website at hydrogencurriculum.org and offer the experiment kits and fuel cell test stations for sale. We welcome inquiries from instructors in any field interested in incorporating this hydrogen energy curriculum in your courses.