Topeka students with Corporate Bigs program give presentation on generating electricity

Program showing measurable outcomes, manager says

Jessica Phifer, 10, explains features of a fictional island Tuesday during a presentation in which Corporate Bigs participants talk about their energy plans. Corporate Bigs is a partnership between Westar, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Topeka Public Schools that emphasizes STEM learning. (Katie Moore/The Capital-Journal)

On Tuesday afternoon, 10-year-old Jessica Phifer pointed out features on a map of Whizpopper Island during a presentation at Westar Energy, 818 S. Kansas Ave.

 

Phifer is one of 10 participants in the Corporate Bigs program, which pairs Williams Science Magnet students with Westar employees and emphasizes STEM activities.

This semester they learned about energy and electricity sources. In a team project, they were then assigned fictional service territories, said Patrick Woods, Westar’s director of talent management and diversity. The groups analyzed geological, geographic and population characteristics to formulate an energy plan.

The project encouraged research, writing and teamwork, Woods said.

Phifer said her favorite part of the project was putting the script for the presentation together. She also learned that natural gas is transported through pipelines.

The teams considered options such as natural gas, nuclear energy and wind and solar power.

Lexannee Arteaga, 10, said he learned that coal gets to generating plants by rail. Arteaga’s Corporate Big, Kevin Schmitt, said it was neat seeing what each group learned as they gave their presentations. Schmitt, a senior auditor, became a Corporate Big this fall.

“It’s been great, we’re having fun,” he said.

Corporate Bigs is a partnership between Westar, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Topeka Public Schools.

This is the fourth year of the program and the second year this group of students has participated.

“It’s been fun to watch them grow and learn about energy,” said Eric Maydew, Topeka area manager of Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Their critical thinking skills have gotten better, their speaking skills have gotten better, and anytime I get together with their teachers or administration, their math and science subjects have improved over the years. So we’re seeing measurable outcomes with the kids which is great and that’s the whole goal behind the program.”

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