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Bakersfield, Featured, Aera in the Community Apr 13, 2022

Creative minds for our energy future

Independence High School students in Bakersfield learn important skills in business innovation through Energy Academy Investors Roundtable

Justin Spore, an Aera production engineer and volunteer judge for the Independence High School Energy Academy Investors Roundtable, listens as a student answers a question about his team’s project

Students from Bakersfield’s Independence High School Energy Academy are bringing business and innovation together to showcase their understanding of the energy field at the academy’s annual Investors Roundtable.

About 90 students worked in 12 groups to develop creative ideas for future-energy solutions — everything from net-zero apartment communities powered by solar- and hydrogen-power sources to transit lines that rely on biodiesel. Students spent weeks developing comprehensive business plans for their projects and presented and fielded questions from panels of expert judges who served in the role of “investors”—including Aera employees— at the high school’s Investors Roundtable event.

The winning team presented an idea for Zelva, an ocean-safe robot that cleans up plastic pollution from oceans, seas and harbors. Coordinators say the Zelva team performed very well in the business expo, showing confidence and knowledge in their idea and easily secured the largest “investment” from judges. 

“I thought the students’ work was awesome,” said Kent Gerhardt, an Aera human resources manager, who also served as a judge for the event. “I hope they understand how much this experience will benefit them as they continue  their studies and work experiences. If the team I worked with is indicative of the talent in Bakersfield, we will have some smart and capable people knocking on our doors in a few years.”

About 90 Independence High School students took part in the Energy Academy’s annual Investors Roundtable

The event helps students put concepts from the classroom into practice while developing communication and problem-solving skills.

“Being able to create something and present it to someone else with experience outside of the school makes what they’re learning less theoretical and more realistic,” said Aaron Jacobson, Independence High School science teacher and coordinator of the Energy Academy. “The feedback on how to look at the problem from different angles – we get from the judge involvement. There’s only so much the teacher can say about a topic. Our expert judges bring in more knowledge about the world outside of the school.”

Student groups are assigned different energy sources at the beginning of the year to focus their research. They spend about six weeks developing an idea for new innovations and business plans to support them for the Investors Roundtable event.

DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy is a three-time recipient of the Forbes America’s Midsize Employer List, placing ninth in the 2022 ranking and securing its spot in the top ten midsize companies to work for in the United States.

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