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CAER's Annual Energy Fair Succeeds: with help from UK Chapter of new Kentucky Energy Club

Wide-eyed fourth graders poured out of buses on the University of Kentucky campus for CAER's annual Energy Fair, which rolled out some surprises this year.

A new offering was UK's fledgling Energy Club, which provided logistical support. The plan is that next time the undergraduates will take the reins from the Center for Applied Energy Research, which for several years has organized the Energy Fair to benefit youngsters in local underperforming public schools. About a dozen club members dropped in throughout the day to shepherd kids from table to table in UK's student center grand ballroom. The interaction seemed to go well, given how the kids were thrilled by the attention from older students.

Energy Fair activities as hosted by the UK CAER

"We want to spark some interest and have them be able to go home and say, 'I saw something really cool with energy," said club president Evan Schroader, a junior engineering student who also works part time at CAER.

The Energy Fair grew out of CAER's ongoing partnership with Russell Cave Elementary. CAER organizers hoped a fair would help them reach even more students -- and it has. A record 300 students from five elementary schools attended the February 15th fair. The staggered schedule enabled them to stop by interactive-learning displays and take in expert demonstrations, too.

For instance, CAER's Matt Weisenberger experimented with aluminum and graphite to illustrate thermal conductivity. "Graphite is one of those materials that can handle a lot of heat," he told the kids as a chunk of aluminum melted and fell off under his torch. "That's why airplane brakes, for example, are made of graphite and not metal."

In another effort to keep the Energy Fair fresh, organizers added an energy-fact scavenger hunt this year. At some of the booths, students had to answer specific questions. From Bluegrass PRIDE, they learned about solar energy. In the Kentucky Geological Survey's exhibit, they saw how a gas like carbon dioxide can be stored inside a rock. And students in UK's Department of Chemical Engineering showed them why insulation is important in houses. Having to write down such highlights held the fourth-graders accountable for what they discovered all morning.

A version of this story appeared on the Fayette County Public Schools web site.