Kids are naturally curious explorers. So when it comes to teaching science, hands-on learning works best.

Students will be able to get close enough to touch and study the future of smart energy use at Sonoran Science Academy, which began to install an electric vehicle (EV) charger at its northwest Tucson campus in September to help its faculty advance the concepts of technology and sustainability.

The academy will be the first Tucson area school to install an EV charger under a pilot program for schools offered through Tucson Electric Power’s EV Smart Charging program. Provided by TEP at no cost to the school, the charger is being installed this fall under a solar shade parking structure recently installed at the academy’s West Sunset Road campus.

The dual-port Level 2 charger allows two EVs to charge at the same time, reaching a full charge within six hours.

While the academy’s schools in Tucson and Phoenix are mostly empty now as students learn online, the adoption of solar and EV technology reinforces its commitment to clean, green energy.

“Social responsibility in educational terms is leading by example,” said Crissie Rowley, the academy’s Communications Director. “The Sonoran Science Academy wants to incentivize our staff to commit to the goal of reducing the school’s carbon footprint. Communicating to students about the choices they make helps them become productive, contributing members of our society. So we view having an EV charger on campus as a learning tool.”

Sonoran Science Academy schools provide K-12 STEM education in a small-school environment through three schools in the Tucson area in addition to schools in Phoenix. The schools focus on hands-on learning, individual and team exploration, and community and citizenship.

TEP launched its commercial EV program in April. TEP contacted area schools to inquire about their interest in installing EV chargers. “Although funds are limited, we’re pleased to partner with schools that share our enthusiasm for education and clean energy to help them reach their sustainability goals,” said Jessica Vega, Senior Commercial Program Manager.

The Sonoran Science Academy was quick to respond to funding available for the school pilot program. “We are a STEM school that focuses heavily on science and technology,” said Chris Felton, Chief Operating Officer of the Sonoran Science Academy. “We were eager to support EVs because it’s socially responsible. It just made sense because more people are driving EVs. It’s important that we lead by example.”

The academy previously has taken advantage of several TEP commercial rebates to upgrade lighting in its classrooms and buildings.

“We like to be a community partner with local entities such as TEP,” Rowley said. “Our missions align as we both support STEM education and are innovators in our community.”

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