Current Event February 22, 2021
A huge power outage in Texas has left millions of people without electricity. The crisis occurred when a storm brought frigid temperatures causing equipment to freeze in every part of the state’s power generation system, including wind turbines, natural gas wells, and coal and nuclear plants. The cold weather was unusual for Texas, but experts say the state needs to prepare its power systems for more extreme weather events in the future. Listen to learn more about the crisis and how politicians are discussing it in the media.
What is electricity? How does it work? Where does it come from? Everyone has heard of electricity, but most people don’t understand much about it. Scientists have studied electricity for centuries, and they still have many unanswered questions! Listen to an electrical engineer explain some of the things we know, and still don’t know, about electricity.
Current Event September 5, 2019
Renewable energy sources like solar power can help protect the environment and lower people’s electricity bills. Unfortunately, not everyone is benefitting equally from alternative energy sources and the technologies that harness them. One African-American solar technology professional is trying to reverse this trend. Listen to learn how he is bringing renewable energy to communities of color in Nashville and why this goal is so important to him.
Current Event July 3, 2019
A group of college students recently came together to attempt an extremely challenging task: launching a rocket into space. Large companies and universities invest a lot of time, money, and resources to launch a rocket, but these ambitious students were determined to do their best with much less. Listen to find out how the idea was hatched, what happened at their first launch, and what they hope other students might learn from them.
Current Event November 14, 2018
The Sahara Desert is expanding due to cycles of drought. A scientist at the University of Maryland who studies the earth’s atmosphere has proposed a solution to this problem involving solar panels and windmills. Listen to learn how her proposed solution could change the future climate of the Sahara region and harness energy at the same time.
People rely on batteries to power our technology: laptops and phones run on rechargeable batteries. These can leak and are full of chemicals. But over time, these batteries stop re-charging, forcing us to purchase a new battery. But what if our batteries never died? A new battery was recently created that can last over 100 times longer than typical batteries. Listen to this story to figure out how one scientist has engineered a new battery.
Current Event August 24, 2016
For the first time in history, two pilots flew the Solar Impulse 2, a solar powered plane, around the world without using any fuel. This technology will have to be developed more before the public will be able to fly in them. Nevertheless, this flight symbolized the innovative progress made by aviators and energy conservationists. Listen to the story to hear more about the flight from pilot, Bertrand Piccard.
Current Event June 18, 2016
The Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to find out how bears will react to a new wind project. It will be the first commercial wind project on U.S. Forest Service land and will include 15 turbines.They started tracking bears by using radio collars to see how they move around before the turbines are in place. The collars had many problems, so they started using cameras to track the bears. Now they have data to study bears and wildlife both before and after the wind project begins. Share this story with your students so they can learn more about this wind project in Vermont and its impact on wildlife.
Current Event April 28, 2016
Outside Reno, Nevada, the company Tesla is constructing a giant battery factory. The batteries will be made for the company’s electric cars as well as other things. Known as the Gigafactory, the building will allow the company to scale up battery production and reduce the price of their electric cars. Tesla is planning to revolutionize energy use by producing something new in their Gigafactory: a “Powerwall,” or a battery for the home. Listen to the story to learn more about how Tesla’s Gigafactory may inspire innovation and lead to cleaner energy use.
Current Event February 2, 2016
Hoverboards, two-wheeled, self-balancing skateboards, are banned from some airlines, subways, and retail stores. That’s because there have been dozens of reports of fires and explosions because they are powered by lithium batteries, which are filled with highly flammable material. An engineer from Stanford University has designed a useful solution to prevent this dangerous problem. Her design involves a thin piece of plastic that helps regulate lithium batteries and make them safer. Listen to this story to find out more about how this innovative solution works.
Earthquakes can have far-reaching consequences not just on homes but on the power infrastructure. A 2008 earthquake in Southwest China left officials and engineers monitoring the structural integrity of enormous hydroelectric dams built to generate power. A fear of flooding caused by a cracked dam led some to wonder if they had taken the strengths of the region, its rivers and irrigation systems, and turned them into a potential threat. Listen to learn how hydroelectric power systems impact places and people.
To lower dependency on fossil fuels, some Americans have installed solar panels on their homes to produce their own clean energy. This decision involves a cost-benefit analysis of cost value and environmental impact. In some regions this cost-benefit ratio has been upset by fracking, and the cheap natural gas that it produces. How does supply and demand impact the cost of energy? How does the cost of energy impact people seeking alternatives such as solar energy? Listen to learn how one family has dealt is dealing with this shifting energy landscape.
Scientists are creating bacteria batteries by using wastewater to generate electricity. The microbes from sewage can be harnessed to develop microbial fuel cells. The process could provide ways to provide energy in remote places for very little money. Listen to learn how scientists are developing this energy and what they are learning from it.
Students in Bellingham, Washington, pushed to introduce composting programs at their high schools and these programs have proved successful. This story follows food from the school cafeteria to the compost site where microorganisms transform it to home gardens and nurseries where compost is applied as fertilizer and mulch. Listen to hear from an insider's view of an industrial scale composting site and how we can learn how to compost.
Rare earth minerals are very important to today's electronics. Your iPod, laptop, and television use them. They make electronics light so they don't need much power. But the Chinese have a lock on the production of rare earth elements and this could become a problem for the US.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the process of putting liquid into shale to remove natural gas. There's concern that when the drillers get rid of wastewater from fracking, it goes into the ground and causes earthquakes. This is happening in places such as Arkansas, and now residents are speaking up to try to put a stop to it. Listen to learn how residents figured out where the earthquakes were coming from and how they are taking the issue to court.
Energy and how it converts to power is a never-ending exploration for scientists. The most significant issue concerning energy right now is how to store it, especially for long periods of time. It's possible to get solar energy from the sun, but what happens to the energy when it's not a sunny day? There's also the problem of having enough space to hold all of this energy. Listen to learn how scientists are trying to figure out how energy can be stored long-term to power the things we use every day.
There is a debate over whether cloud seeding is an efficient way to produce more snow and rain in places where droughts are the worst. Opponents claim that the chemicals that are sprayed into the air to create more water are toxic and could cause health issues in the future. Others believe this is the only way to for some gas and electric companies to obtain more energy. Listen to learn about the other concerns at hand and if this the history of this process.
A new source of energy is being developed by using Michigan's industrial food waste. Using existing technology for converting manure into electricity, these anaerobic digesters are doing their work on pudding packs and canned peaches, among other delicacies. Listen to learn how they are turning waste into electricity.