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RMU, Pitt Team up for "Energy Inventor Lab" Program

Monday, February 1, 2016

Pittsburgh, Feb. 1, 2016 – Engineering professors at Robert Morris University and the University of Pittsburgh have received a grant from Constellation Energy to continue their Energy Inventor Labs education and outreach programs.

Tony Kerzmann at RMU and David Sanchez at Pitt developed the Energy Inventors Labs thanks to a previous grant from Constellation Energy. The Energy Inventor Labs aim to interest K-12 students in energy technology and engineering, and to encourage college students to develop energy efficient technologies and innovations that harness various sources of energy.

"When students get excited about energy, engineering and technology, they have gone beyond just learning,” said Kerzmann, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. “This is what truly leaves a lasting impression on them, and this can be accomplished by allowing them to create things while tapping into their imagination and their own personal interests."

Kerzmann and Sanchez estimate that more than 1,000 students in the Pittsburgh region have benefited from Energy Inventor Labs since the initiative launched in January 2015. Among the programs supported through the initiative: 

  • Energy Ties Challenge: The goal of this weeklong outreach event for middle school and high school students was to teach them about energy generation, conversion, efficiency, consumption, and control systems. The students learned to design and build solar-powered Lego vehicles, which they raced against one another.
  • Teach the Teacher: The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering provided professional development and resources for middle school teachers to integrate sustainability education in their classrooms. Sanchez is the assistant director for education at the Mascaro Center.
  • Investing Now: This five-week summer program at Pitt provided advising, tutoring, and mentoring to 180 pre-college and undergraduate students from minority groups who are underrepresented in scientific and technical fields.

With the latest round of grant funding, Kerzmann and Sanchez plan to work with the Pittsburgh Public Schools, among others, to demonstrate how to incorporate the Energy Inventor Labs lesson into schools’ core curriculum. Their focus will be hands-on projects in partnership with the local “Maker Movement,” which emphasizes learning by building technology, art, craft, electronics, and engineering projects.

“We’re grateful that Constellation continues to invest in developing the program and allows us to engage the community,” said Sanchez, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “We’re excited for this next year as the combination of studying energy in a maker education context is apt to provide our students with a unique and transformative learning experience.“


Through 49 undergraduate and 35 graduate degree programs across five academic schools, Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh, Pa., works to change its students' lives so that they can go out and change the lives of others for the better. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate, nontraditional and online students from 45 states and 41 nations are enrolled at RMU, which sits on 230 scenic acres just 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. Emphasizing experiential learning, Robert Morris focuses on professional development, service learning, global awareness, undergraduate research, campus leadership, and cultural experiences, all of which are documented on our innovative Student Engagement Transcript. More than 100 clubs and organizations help students to develop leadership skills, network professionally, and meet friends. RMU also has 16 NCAA Division I athletic programs, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, and men's and women's lacrosse.


The University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering is one of the oldest engineering programs in the United States, and in 2015 was ranked by U.S. News and World Report among the top 25 engineering programs at public research universities. The Swanson School has excelled in basic and applied research during the past decade and is at the forefront of 21st-century technology, including energy systems, sustainability, bioengineering, microsystems and nanosystems, computational modeling, and advanced materials development. Approximately 120 faculty members serve more than 3,200 undergraduate and graduate students in six departments, including bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, civil and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, and mechanical engineering and materials science.