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Black & Veatch Accelerates Clean Energy and STEM Learning through Operation Breakthrough Solar Deployment

08 Dec 2021

With the search for clean energy solutions a major focus of STEM education programs, Black & Veatch has teamed with local Kansas City-based organizations to fund and complete a new solar canopy installation at Operation Breakthrough’s new Ignition Lab. The Ignition Lab will help inspire the next generation of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students, advance clean energy and provide onsite zero-carbon solar generation. The Black & Veatch Foundation – the company’s charitable giving arm – was among the project's funders while Black & Veatch also engaged as the solar project design lead and videographer.

Operation Breakthrough is a nationally accredited, not-for-profit child and family development center located in Kansas City, Missouri. For more than 50 years, Operation Breakthrough has provided educational programs, healthcare, parent programs and emergency services to the children and families they serve, more than 87 percent of whom live below federal poverty guidelines. Every weekday, the center cares for more than 700 children, aged six weeks to 18 years.

The Ignition Lab expands Operation Breakthrough’s services to high schoolers, providing 14- to 18-year-olds with opportunities to explore various STEM subjects including energy audits, siting, engineering, drones, graphic design, 3D printing and laser cutting, cyber security/IT, fabrication and construction, coding and more. The Ignition Lab’s focus is aligned with Kansas City’s Real World Learning initiative, which is designed to enable students to acquire work experiences, internships, client-connected projects, college credits and industry-recognized credentials.

“The Ignition Lab not only provides students with technical training, opening new doors for what are historically higher-paying STEM jobs right out of high school, but it also expands the opportunity for these students to figure out which path they want to take in college,” said Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce obtained the space for the Ignition Lab through his foundation, Eighty-Seven & Running. The solar canopy installation at the Ignition Lab was made possible by a consortium team comprised of Black & Veatch, Sun Partners International, JE Dunn, MRIGlobal, and RisingSun Solar.

“It is humbling to collaborate with Operation Breakthrough and others to develop, fund, and complete this exciting new solar project at the Ignition Lab that will positively impact our community for years,” said Keith Small, Black & Veatch Associate Vice President. “The new Ignition Lab provides a comprehensive living laboratory environment for students, furthers STEM education, and creates opportunities to reduce opportunity gaps.”

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