What is Beckman’s High School Solar Energy Research?

Over the years, Beckman’s High School Solar Energy Research (BHSSEER) program has evolved and grown to become one of the largest and most recognized high school solar programs in the United States. BHSSEER was founded in 2010 with the mission to “inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to work on real-world problems that affect us all.” While similar to other high school solar programs in that it teaches the fundamentals of solar technology and programming, BHSSEER takes the subject matter more seriously than many of its counterparts by incorporating the scientific method and incorporating research practices that engage students in authentic hands-on investigations.

How Does It Work?

The BHSSEER program runs in the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) departments and is open to students in grades 10 through 12. Students in the program work in small groups on real-world problems and design research projects to solve them. Each year, groups of students research a problem in renewable energy and come up with a plan to solve that problem. The groups then pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges who score their plans and pick the two best. These two teams of students then develop their ideas and present them in a full-fledged industrial setting where experts from the corporate world come together to critique their designs and give advice on how to make them better.

A team of BHSSEER students recently won the Siemens Solar Decathlon, an international competition that brings together teams from around the world. The winning entry, a house designed by a team of Bay Area high schools, incorporates several advanced solar technology features, including an active power management system that provides energy savings of up to 30% compared to the house built with conventional technology. It used photovoltaic cells that were tied into a microgrid controlled by a special firmware that allowed for optimal power flow while also providing backup power in case of a blackout.

The Challenges

While it’s always an honor to win any competition, the fact that BHSSEER students have won Siemens Awards for excellence and have gone on to secure excellent college admission ratings is a testament to the rigor of the program. However, it’s important to note that the program faces several challenges that other high school programs don’t have. First, since BHSSEER students tackle real-world problems that they’re passionate about, they often have to struggle with a lack of funding. Many of the program’s challenges are met with private donations and grants, but these can be hard to come by. Most importantly, the program has to find a way to integrate research and design skills that will help them secure high paying jobs after graduation.

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