SERC Presents “Fuel Up with Hydrogen” Workshop for GATE Academy

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.

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.


A Message from the Director: Passing the Torch

This is my last director’s column.  After 7 years of newsletters and 23 years at the helm of the Schatz lab, I’ll be entering the faculty early retirement program in mid-August and passing the torch on to Arne Jacobson who will become the lab’s director.

We’re fortunate to have Arne stepping in.  He was one of the first grad students to work at the lab; his master’s thesis concerned work with the electrolyzer at the Schatz Solar Hydrogen Project.  He went on to earn his Ph.D. at the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley and now is my colleague in the Environmental Resources Engineering department.  Arne’s long time connection with the lab, his service as co-director for five years, and his strong leadership skills will serve us well for many years to come.  And starting next issue, you’ll get to read his thoughts in this space.

Meanwhile, I’m not going away.  Working here is way too interesting and fun to stop now.  During the five years of my early retirement program, I’ll be known as the Founding Director and share leadership duties with Arne.  I look forward to being busy and involved; maybe I’ll even have a chance to get back into the lab and turn a wrench or two.

In this issue of our newsletter, Peter Alstone and Meg Harper keep us up to date on summer activities in Kenya as part of the Lighting Africa project and Richard Engel writes a tribute to our benefactor Mr. Schatz on the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Jim Zoellick describes a project with local partners to plan for an electric vehicle infrastructure in Humboldt County, Allison Oakland describes our continuing effort to bring fuel cell topics into science education with a teacher workshop, and Greg Chapman describes progress in upgrading our hydrogen fueling station to 700 bar operation.

I’m writing this on the summer solstice as the sun shines its warmth and light on our hemisphere.  I want to thank all you faithful readers and send a fond farewell.  It’s been a joy and a privilege to communicate with you through this column; let’s all keep working to improve the health of our beautiful planet.  Goodbye, thank you, and best wishes.

HyTEC Teacher Training August 6-7, 2012

The Schatz Energy Research Center will be offering a 2-day Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) teacher training August 6-7 at Humboldt State University. This will be the last professional development opportunity for high school teachers interested in bringing HyTEC-funded hydrogen and fuel cell technology into the classroom.

SERC collaborated with the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley on development of the curriculum and experiment kits for teaching high school students in chemistry, environmental science, and physical science courses about hydrogen energy and fuel cells. Curriculum topics are correlated with National Science Teachers Association standards. The project has support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit Agency. Visit the project website here.

Teachers take data during the fuel cell lab experiment.

The curriculum has gone through extensive testing and is now being disseminated nationwide. The hydrogen experiment kits that were developed as part of the curriculum have recently gone into production by LabAids, a longtime partner of Lawrence Hall of Science. The kits are designed to be low-cost, but given very limited budgets at high schools these days, SERC and the Humboldt County Office of Education will act as regional hosts, providing a physical location where high school teachers can check out the kits. Teachers who participate in the training will also have access to additional resources at SERC, including staff and docent support during the lab portions of the curriculum. To bring the topic of hydrogen for transportation out of the classroom and into the real-world, SERC staff and docents can also provide tours of the Humboldt State University Hydrogen Fueling Station and demonstrate our Toyota Highlander fuel cell car.

High school Chemistry students pilot test the HyTEC.

The workshop will be led by scientists, engineers, and curriculum developers working on hydrogen and fuel cells. Workshop participants who reside in Humboldt County will receive a $200 stipend. Out-of-county participants will receive a $250 stipend. High school teachers of Environmental Science, Chemistry, or Physical Science are encouraged to register.

The one- to two-week flexible curriculum module includes an introduction to alternative energy for transportation, electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen fuel, use of the hydrogen produced to run hydrogen fuel cells and measure efficiency, and the chemistry of the fuel cell reaction. Practical applications and challenges of this technology and environmental issues related to energy use are also covered.

The kits available on loan to each participant include one complete set of teacher materials and eight complete sets of classroom materials, including eight experiment kits, appropriate for a classroom of 32 students working in groups of four.


HyTEC Manual Cover

Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells was published by project partner Lab-Aids, Inc. in March 2011.

We are excited to announce that the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project’s high school chemistry module titled, Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells was published by project partner Lab-Aids, Inc. in March 2011 (see the cover, below). The module is comprised of six activities and introduces students to hydrogen and fuel cells in the context of energy for transportation.

The publication of the module is the culmination of six years of hard work between SERC and Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS). There have been many meetings, teacher training workshops, and iterations with Barbara Nagle and her colleagues at LHS. It’s rewarding to see our curriculum published and available to high school students across the country.

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HyTEC Update

H2E3 Fuel Cell / Electrolyzer Kit

H2E3 Fuel Cell / Electrolyzer Kit (Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown)

The Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project has been underway since 2004, and after much hard work we are nearing a momentous milestone. In collaboration with SERC and the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, LabAids, Inc. is about to begin offering a commercial version of our HyTEC curriculum. The cornerstone of the curriculum is a bench-top electrolyzer and fuel cell kit that high school students will work with in their chemistry or other physical science courses. With this bench-top kit, students will produce hydrogen via electrolysis and then use the hydrogen to power a small fuel cell and run a fan motor. Students will collect data while running the lab experiment and will use the data to estimate the energy conversion efficiency of the fuel cell.

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North Coast Teachers Learn HyTEC

HyTEC Manual Cover

Investigating Alternative Energy: Hydrogen & Fuel Cells was published by project partner Lab-Aids, Inc. in March 2011.

SERC had a busy summer working to get the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) into high school classrooms. HyTEC is a 2-3 week curriculum developed over the last four years through a partnership between Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley (LHS) and SERC. HyTEC is designed to introduce high school chemistry and environmental science students to hydrogen energy and fuel cell concepts in the course of their regular classwork.

We led two 2-day teacher training workshops at Humboldt State University (HSU) for local teachers and participated in another 2-day teacher training at LHS in Berkeley for teachers from across the nation.

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HyTEC Update

HyTEC Fuel Cells

The commercial fuel cells tested for the HyTEC project.

SERC has been working with the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) at UC Berkeley since 2004 on the Hydrogen Technology and Energy Curriculum (HyTEC) project. The curriculum introduces hydrogen and fuel cells into high school chemistry and science courses. To date we have completed a curriculum module consisting of six activities. The module has been field tested in numerous schools throughout the country. The curriculum module is built around a laboratory kit that allows small groups of students to work with a bench top electrolyzer and fuel cell. Students generate hydrogen via electrolysis, use the hydrogen to operate a fuel cell and power an electric motor, and then measure the efficiency of the fuel cell. In the process they learn about electrochemistry and how a fuel cell works.

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Hydrogen Technology and Education Curriculum

HyTEC teacher training

Local high school teachers participating in a HyTEC training workshop hosted by SERC (Photo Credit SERC)

Project partners Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) at UC Berkeley, SERC, and AC Transit Authority were recently awarded an additional $150,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to further develop the Hydrogen Technology and Education Curriculum (HyTEC). As subcontractor on this project, SERC’s involvement to date includes curriculum development, teacher training, pilot testing in the classroom, and the development of hands-on laboratory kits that feature student operated fuel cells and electrolyzers.

HyTEC is a two-week module targeted for high school chemistry and environmental science students that features hands-on laboratory activities, readings and calculations, and issues based role-play activities. We recently completed revisions to the curriculum based on feedback from California classroom pilot tests and teacher workshops. The additional DOE funding will help meet the project’s multi-year goal of national field testing and dissemination of the curriculum to a large, national audience of students and teachers.

Docents Get HyTEC

new docents fall 2006

New docents (left to right) Lucas Siegfried, Kristen Radecsky, Joe Purdon and James Apple. (Photo Credit SERC)

Fall has begun and with it a flurry of activity in our education and outreach program. We added four new docents to our program, three Environmental Systems graduate students and one undergraduate in Environmental Resources Engineering. Our program now has eight docents, our largest group thus far.

During their first week, docents received training in our Hydrogen Technology and Education Curriculum (HyTEC) electrolyzer/fuel cell lab equipment and then provided backup support for the HSU Engineering classes that performed the lab. Even though the HyTEC project was developed for high school chemistry students (as described below), the positive feedback received after performing the lab in college courses demonstrates how the lab can be readily incorporated into college level courses.

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