New solar panel canopy to impact student learning 

When Pittsburg State University construction management major Liam Smith was in a course last year, using hand tools powered by a noisy generator in an outdoor classroom made it challenging to hear instruction. 

This year and for years to come, students won’t have that challenge: their tools will be powered by a noiseless solar panel made possible in partnership with Evergy. 

Community and university leaders, students and faculty from the College of Technology, representatives from Evergy, and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce gathered for a ribbon cutting Thursday morning officially marking the completion of the solar panel project.  

Ribbon Cutting Nursing

The panels form a canopy over a large concrete pad, which in turn gives the look and feel of a multi-purpose park shelter. 

The solar panel structure is located along the hike-bike path that runs north of the Kansas Technology Center, where the College of Technology is based. It is adjacent to an outdoor classroom used by the School of Construction and the Diesel and Heavy Equipment program. 

During the ceremony, remarks were made by Evergy Vice President Jeff Martin, PSU President Dan Shipp, and COT Dean Bob Frisbee.  

“What makes this unique is this is an off-grid system. It generates about 25,000 watts of power for the students, so they can come out here, they can charge their tools … and also the lighting,” said Martin, a 1993 graduate of PSU in electronics. 

In his remarks, Shipp shared vivid memories of his dad installing a solar panel on the family home in Nebraska in the late 1970s. 

“I remember as a kid saying, ‘What are we doing dad?’ and my dad said — he was a man of very few words — ‘This is going to be the future son’,” Shipp said. 

“Fast forward to a day like this, to have an opportunity like this for our students to learn, an applied learning experience like this, this is really valuable,” he said. “I’m proud for Pitt State to have something like this on our campus.”  

Frisbee said it will directly benefit the COT’s electrical programs, the School of Construction, and the electronics engineering technology, all of which will integrate it into the curriculum. 

Only one small thing remains: installing an educational sign explaining how it works. 

Solar panels on the roof of the shelter harness the sun and convert photons into DC power, which is stored in the 25kW lithium-ion battery. That means power is available at the site even when the sun isn’t shining.  

DC power is converted into AC power, which is what electrical circuits in homes and businesses use. It can be used to power phones, computers, and tools, providing off-grid, renewable energy for the KTC’s construction and automotive programs.