Children can climb behind the wheel, push buttons and plug in a charger in a revamped electric vehicle at a Children’s Museum Tucson’s exhibit, recently modernized by TEP.

The upgraded Electri-City exhibit now features an electric vehicle as the centerpiece, along with a scale depiction of a wind turbine next to a model of TEP’s Downtown Headquarters and other Tucson landmarks. Age-appropriate explanations of various types of energy are displayed around the exhibit.

TEP funded the $40,000 refresh as part of our company focus on education, including an emphasis on sustainability and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“TEP and the Children’s Museum Tucson have a longstanding partnership that exemplifies one of the many ways our company positively impacts our community,” said Amy Welander, TEP’s Senior Director and Assistant General Counsel, who previously served as the museum’s board chair. “Many may think of the Children’s Museum as just a place to play, but it’s so much more. The TEP Electri-City exhibit, for example, provides hands-on learning experiences that are still fun, even while they’re critical to childhood development.”

The electric vehicle is a Chevy Spark that was reconstructed to allow for hands-on activities to demonstrate vehicle mechanics, such as slides, cranks and charging lights.

The exhibit, which is situated near the entrance, has been a hit with children, who often head straight to the EV as soon as they walk in. “They love climbing into cars. It’s showing kids how an electric car works,” said Teresa Truelsen, Director of Marketing.

Ted Burhans, TEP’s Director of Emerging Technology and Innovation, who recently joined the museum board, said TEP wanted to focus on electric vehicles.

“We wanted to provide a more holistic look at TEP’s electricity,” Burhans said. “We wanted to get kids really interested in electric vehicles and have a better understanding of what they can do. It gives a flavor of the next wave of what people will be seeing in the marketplace.”

The exhibit is part of TEP’s ongoing support of the museum.

Most years, TEP pays for field trips for low-income students to learn about electricity at the exhibit – a longstanding practice we hope will continue when schools fully resume.

With field trips suspended during the pandemic, TEP instead used the money for “Brain Boxes,” which were distributed to children through the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, the Pima County Schools Superintendent’s Office and some local school districts, said Jennifer North, TEP’s Education Outreach Representative. The boxes include supplies for about 30 activities and booklets, which outline instructions for about 20 more activities.

“We are so grateful for the support we received over the past year from TEP and the community,” Truelsen said. “We are thrilled now to be welcoming children back into the museum, and TEP’s generosity allowed us to make that in-person experience even better.”

This story is part of our ongoing series highlighting TEP’s philanthropic focus areas. TEP works with nonprofit partners to develop invitation-based donation requests for community assistance efforts. Funds come from corporate resources, not customers’ rates. Learn more about donations.

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