As hundreds of Olson Middle School students bolted for their summer break this week, Minneapolis science teacher Darren Sjoberg was gearing up for his own excursion.
Later this month, he’ll build wind turbines, rain barrels, solar cars and perform all sorts of earthly experiments as part of a Green Boot Camp put on by Honeywell. Sjoberg is one of 70 teachers globally who won a scholarship to the company’s five-day workshop that seeks to offer Honeywell’s energy-cutting expertise to middle school teachers and students around the world.
The workshop, which starts June 22, will train teachers from Brazil, China, India, Australia, Malaysia, Mexico, Romania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States. Workshops will be taught by energy conservation pros from Honeywell, Solar Rain Bottled Water Co. and several other firms.
“It started out as more of a U.S.-focused thing, but we gradually expanded it to give teachers from around the world some hands-on training and experience that they can bring back to the classroom,” said Paul Orzeske, the president of Honeywell’s Building Solutions in Golden Valley.
What began as a pilot program with 12 teachers six years ago now taps teachers from four continents. Honeywell was flooded with so many boot camp applications this year that it may add two workshops in the United States and start its first international camp in England. This year, it will cost “six figures” to run one program, but it’s worth it, Orzeske said, because the camp “aims to provide ideas for teachers [that] help inspire students to be more sustainably minded.”
Sjoberg, who runs an after-school sustainability club, is stoked. The solar-car kits his program received this year will also debut at Honeywell’s camp. “I’m all about sustainability, so I am pretty excited. This is right up my alley,” he said, adding that the boot camp’s mission supports Minnesota’s goal of boosting science, technology, engineering and math skills in students.
The Green Boot Camp had its genesis in Golden Valley, where Honeywell’s Automation and Control Solutions business generates $16.6 billion in annual sales, making building and home electronics that automatically measure, set and cut energy use. As part of its “energy saving performance contracts,” Honeywell spokesman Mark Hamel said the business has performed 5,700 energy audits. It also has saved public schools, universities, cities, power plants and hotels $6 billion over 20 years through lighting, boiler and HVAC modifications.
Reaching students through the boot camp is an extension of Honeywell’s business mission. “Energy efficiency is a huge deal for Honeywell. It’s 50 percent of what we make here,” Hamel said. “So the thought was, how can we bring an energy-efficiency mind-set and provide useful tools to the educational world and spread some of these important concepts?”
Honeywell is starting with middle school teachers in the hopes of training 10- to 14-year-olds early in the art of energy conservation.
Brett Barta teaches life sciences at Northdale Middle School in Coon Rapids and hopes to one day make his classroom paper-free and jam-packed with hands-on experiments. So when he learned he won Honeywell’s boot camp scholarship he was ecstatic. “I did a lot of research before I applied, and I was blown away by the aspect of all they are offering. There is nothing more fun than to do the stuff your students will do and to help them experience it for the first time,” Barta said.
Barta and Sjoberg are two of three Minneapolis teachers participating in Honeywell’s camp. Minneapolis science teacher Rob Rand wrote and won the grant that brought the solar car kits to Sjoberg’s middle school this year. He participated in the boot camp for the first time three years ago and returns this year as a workshop facilitator.
“The whole idea is that the teachers can come out of this program with energy conservation ideas for what they can practically implement in the classroom. That’s what I did,” said Rand whose grant application brought a 3-foot-tall windmill and a fleet of solar cars and geothermal experiments to Olson Middle School. He’s excited that Honeywell will provide that same opportunity to teachers from China, Malaysia, Brazil and other countries.
This year’s boot camp is the latest of many efforts to “save Mother Earth” and heighten energy awareness, Orzeske said. In three years, Honeywell launched voice-activated home thermostats, hotel thermostats that automatically adjust settings when a guest leaves the room, and forensic programs to gauge energy efficiency. The latter analyze refrigerators, furnaces and air conditioners and offer, via e-reader, money-saving tips that homeowners and their kids can use.
If the Green Boot Camp program continues to grow, “it can offer teachers and their students [the same kind of] real-world field testing. It would be fun to have classrooms competing with each other to see who can cut energy the most,” Orzeske said.