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Programs for Students

NREL’s education programs promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) using clean energy technologies to capture student interest.

A photo of students competing in NREL's Solar and Lithium Ion model car races in Colorado.

STEM Education Programs

Certified science educators provide hands-on learning experiences for students at NREL. These activities provide fun and imaginative ways to learn about the science of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Student programs for grades 4–12 are offered regularly 9:30–11 a.m. and noon–1:30 p.m. at NREL’s education center. Please contact us for more information. The maximum group size is 30 students to three chaperones; the minimum group size is 15 students to one chaperone. Reservations must be made at least one month in advance.

Elementary Program – Watts Up with Electricity?

Students in grades 4-5, learn how electricity is generated or converted and discover the relationship between magnetism and electricity. In addition to a multimedia presentation, students experience hands-on activities such as hand-crank generators, solar power experiments, and wind farm modeling.

Middle School Program – Exploring Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Students in grades 6–8, are introduced to how energy is currently produced in the United States and the scope of Americans' annual energy use. Students learn how NREL researches and develops renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and transfers this knowledge to companies and manufacturers to address the nation's energy and environmental goals. Activities include photovoltaic (solar) panel experiments, solar resource assessments using solar-powered meters, testing the efficiency of different lighting options, and constructing a wind farm model.

High School Program – Energy in Today's Global Society

Students are introduced to ongoing energy related environmental problems. Students are then introduced to renewable energy research and technology being developed at NREL and the potential impact. Students also are introduced to a variety of science, technology, and mathematics career paths.

For lesson plans, projects, and other activities for grades K–12 on energy- and environment-related topics, visit the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network.

Visit our Energy Basics website for information about the basics of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.


Model Car Competition

NREL's model car competition is a classroom-based, hands-on educational program for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Student teams apply math, science, and creativity to construct solar and battery-powered model cars. The vehicles are raced in interscholastic competitions hosted within their schools, states, or regions. 

High School Science Bowl

NREL sponsors the annual Colorado Regional High School Science Bowl where teams are quizzed on a variety of math and science topics. The winning team receives an all-expense paid trip to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.

Collegiate Wind Competition

NREL hosts the annual Collegiate Wind Competition, funded by the DOE. This competition challenges teams of undergraduate students from a variety of programs to offer a unique solution to a complex wind energy challenge. The competition provides each student with real-world experience as they prepare to enter the wind industry workforce.

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

Wind for Schools

NREL manages DOE's Wind for Schools project with a mission to develop a future wind energy workforce. College students are encouraged to join Wind Application Centers to serve as project consultants for small wind turbine installations at rural elementary and secondary schools. More than 145 systems have been installed at host schools across 12 states.

Advanced Energy Systems Graduate Program

This interdisciplinary Colorado School of Mines graduate program prepares researchers and energy professionals to address complex infrastructure, economic, and environmental challenges. The doctoral program includes two 12-week rotations at NREL, where Ph.D. students learn about the latest in energy analysis, technologies, and science while working with NREL researchers, industry partners, and innovators. Doctoral students work directly with NREL researchers and are co-supervised by Colorado School of Mines facility and NREL researchers. A non-thesis master’s degree option offers recent graduates and energy professionals similar access to core courses, joint Mines-NREL seminars, networking, professional development, and recruiting opportunities in industry and government. Learn more and apply through the Colorado School of Mines website.

University Partnerships Program

Through partnerships with universities and other educational institutions, NREL is able to tackle complex challenges in renewable energy. These collaborations provide graduate and undergraduate students opportunities to work with NREL scientists, as well as university researchers, on joint publications, funding, and research and career advancement.