Working together with the communities we serve
At NextEra Energy, we’re working with the communities we serve to make them even better places to work and raise families. One of the ways we do this is by supporting STEM education initiatives that prepare students for good-paying jobs and provide the technically savvy work force our business requires. We support programs for students at all grade levels and for teachers. Increasingly, our employees are seeking volunteer opportunities in which they can leverage their own skills to inspire the next generation of technically prepared workers. Our employees have risen to the challenge and had fun along the way! Here are some of the ways we support education.
Robotics is a major focus of our education philanthropy. Across Florida, we support 50 robotics teams made up of students from elementary through high school. In 2015, we also partnered with the FIRST organization to sponsor regional tournaments in South Florida and in Northeast Florida. We believe students who participate in robotics learn engineering and programming skills, but also teamwork, communications and other vital work skills. We’re giving back to our communities while fostering the future workforce we’ll need. Robotics also appeals to employees across the company who want to use their technical skills in a volunteer setting. At FPL, welders, machinists, engineers and executives have all volunteered with robotics programs. In 2016, FPL will award its inaugural FIRST Robotics Scholarship to an outstanding student from the company’s service area who has participated on a FIRST robotics team for at least two years and has enrolled in a college program in engineering or information management. The $5,000 scholarship is renewable annually up to a maximum of $20,000.
For the past four years, some of the robotics teams sponsored by FPL have brought their robots to the company’s Juno Beach, Fla., headquarters to show them off to employees. During this “Robotics Showcase,” some employees also become teachers for the day, instructing the students in the business skills needed to be successful and demonstrating the breadth of careers available in the company.
In Broward County, Fla., FPL also works with the organization IT Women to sponsor a robotics camp for girls.In November of 2015, FPL partnered with the Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County, Fla., to support and help plan the Foundation’s Girls Leadership Institute and to lead a STEM activity – building solar back packs. Some of FPL’s female engineers worked with the girls who chose to participate in the STEM activity. A mini-solar panel was attached to the backpacks so that a phone or iPad could be charged while being carried in the backpack. Once the backpacks were constructed, members of FPL’s marketing and social media teams stepped in to help the girls develop a sales and marketing plan for their products.
- FPL employees invest in aspiring minority engineers
Members of NextEra Energy’s (NEE) African American Professional Employee Group (AAPEG) work with the Southeast Consortium of Minorities in Engineering (SECME) to encourage historically under-represented and under-served students to prepare for and enter careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Initially, the AAPEG volunteers worked on existing SECME competitions like the “Brain Bowl,” but they became convinced that FPL was a perfect fit to sponsor a SECME competition tailored to the electric utility industry. They devised a project in which students build simple electric generators from simple components, and then test them in a competitive event. SECME loved the idea. Students are given four magnets, 500 feet of wire, and cardboard boxes. The FPL volunteers conduct seminars for teachers on how to build generators. The students test their generators, measure how many volts are generated and ultimately compete against other generator builders in the annual competition, the SECME Olympiad. FPL’s AAPEG members conduct the Olympiads and act as judges. The first SECME ‘generator build’ competition was held in 2012 in Broward County, Fla.
Florida Governor Rick Scott chose FPL as the location for a press conference on his education initiatives because of the company’s long and significant support for education. Among those taking part were students from Washington Elementary Magnet School’s (West Palm Beach, Fla.) SECME team. FPL employee Melanie Roger, center, is one of the company’s AAPEG volunteers who partnered with SECME to create and conduct generator-build competitions for nearly 100 schools in South Florida.
- High school students learn graduate-level finance skills
Each year, NextEra Energy (NEE) executives step into a classroom at the William T. Dwyer High School, Palm Beach County, Fla., to teach graduate-level finance courses to juniors enrolled in the school’s Academy of Finance. And that’s just the beginning! During the six-month program, the students are also coached in presentation and leadership skills. When the classroom portion of the program ends, the students split into teams that are asked to use all they’ve learned to evaluate the financial feasibility of theoretical wind-driven, electric generating facilities or “wind farms” – the kind of work that real-life NEER employees do every day. The students can recommend “go” or “no go” on the projects, so long as their analysis is sound and based on the principles they’ve studied. In the end, the teams present their recommendations to a panel of judges made up of FPL and NEER executives, School District of Palm Beach County administrators and local finance and engineering professionals. A winning team is chosen and each student on the team receives a $2,000 college scholarship. In its tenth year, the project recently earned the company an outstanding business partner award from the school district.
Mark Sorensen (center), senior vice president & chief risk officer for NextEra Energy Resources is one of the company executives who annually takes on a teaching role with high school juniors. His subjects are cash flow and project feasibility
- Building and marketing solar backpacks
In November of 2015, FPL partnered with the Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County, Fla., to support and help plan the Foundation’s Girls Leadership Institute and to lead a STEM activity – building solar back packs. Some of FPL’s female engineers worked with the girls who chose to participate in the STEM activity. A mini-solar panel was attached to the backpacks so that a phone or iPad could be charged while being carried in the backpack. Once the backpacks were constructed, members of FPL’s marketing and social media teams stepped in to help the girls develop a sales and marketing plan for their products.
- More support for education
Men in Plaid: The Kilowatt Connection Partnering with The National Theatre for Children, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) sends this touring assembly program to 120 Florida elementary schools each year. The play follows the intergalactic adventures of two special agents as they learn about energy and electricity to stop an energy-wasting villain. FPL sponsors the performance at each school, making it a cost-free supplement to lessons in science as well as the arts. Teachers receive access to digital student workbooks, teacher guides and classroom digital games and activities tied to concepts outlined in the show – how electricity and energy are made, the uses of energy, ways that energy is wasted and how to conserve energy.
Men in Plaid – the Kilowatt Connection teaches concepts of energy and electricity with quality, brevity and levity!
Matching Gifts Program Underscoring the company’s commitment to the next generation, NextEra Energy matches funds provided by employees to support eligible educational institutions.
Science Fairs and Science Competitions Science fairs are a great way to inspire young minds and future scientists. In 2015, FPL supported numerous science fairs and science Olympiads in our 35-county service area.
Solar Education in Schools Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) has constructed 129 solar education stations at schools throughout its service area and has trained 600 teachers in a curriculum designed to provide dynamic educational opportunities using the solar arrays. And added benefit is that the solar energy produced by the arrays is used as a bill credit for the site, reducing energy costs.
A solar education station is dedicated at Miami Jackson Senior High School.
Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training Over the next two decades, nuclear workforce needs will exceed the current pool of trained applicants. To help ensure the nation is able to meet these needs in a standardized and systematic way, in 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) supported development of the Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training (RCNET), and FPL is the primary industry partner. This initiative is part of NSF's Advanced Technology Education (ATE) program. RCNET's goal is to provide standardized curriculum, hands-on labs, and professional development, academic and career pathways and maintain a learning repository for nuclear curriculum.
Located at Indian River State College (IRSC), in Fort Pierce, Fla., RCNET is a consortium of 46 colleges and universities, 35 industry partners, and multiple agency and other partners. Its primary focus is on two-year college training and involves partnerships between academic institutions and employers to promote improvement in the education of nuclear technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels. Today, RCNET representatives and United Negro College Fund representatives are meeting with high school students to raise awareness of careers in the nuclear energy sector. RCNET is on track to become a NSF National Center. See http://www.gonuke.org/about-us/rcnet-information for more information.