STEM-focused Purdue program earns Duke Energy's Difference Maker award

May 20, 2015  

Duke academy

The Purdue Energy Academy received Duke Energy Corp.'s Difference Maker award for 2015. Pictured at the award presentation during an Indianapolis Indians game on May 16 are, from left, Tolu Omotoso, coordinator, Purdue Energy Academy; Pankaj Sharma, managing director, Purdue Energy Center; Kevin Johnston, government and community relations manager, Duke Energy; Paul Sturm, director of development, Purdue's Discovery Park; and James Sublett, lead sourcing specialist, Duke Energy. (Purdue University photo/provided)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University program that brings high school students and teachers to campus for a week each summer to investigate energy problems and solutions is the recipient of Duke Energy Corp.'s Difference Maker award for 2015.

The Purdue Energy Academy, led by the university's Energy Center in Discovery Park, was honored with the award during the Indianapolis Indians game on Saturday (May 16). Several Purdue Energy Academy officials were present at the game to accept the award.

Duke Energy's Difference Makers award, created in 2014, honors Indiana residents whose hard work and dedication have significantly bettered the lives of their local community's residents.

"As Indiana's largest electric supplier, we have the privilege of working with a number of community organizations statewide," said Doug Esamann, president of Duke Energy of Indiana. "These Difference Makers go out of their way to bring about significant change. And they distinguish themselves by their dedication and impact."

The Purdue Energy Academy has done just that, with its aim the past three years to engage high school students and teachers in energy sciences and improve STEM scholarship in schools across Indiana. The program was launched in 2012 after Purdue recognized a national shortage in the number and quality of students entering STEM fields.

"A cross-cutting topic, energy resonates nicely with the interdisciplinary theme of Discovery Park," said Maureen McCann, director of the Energy Center and a professor of biological sciences. "Since the inception of the Duke Energy Academy at Purdue, the quality and quantity of student applications have increased dramatically."

The annual Duke Energy Academy at Purdue has become one of Indiana's leading summer learning programs for high school students and teachers. The 2015 edition, featuring 42 high school students and 42 teachers, will be June 21-27.

A grant from the Duke Energy Foundation and funding from other sponsors enables participants to attend the academy at no cost. Participants engage in a wide range of energy-related learning opportunities through lectures, tours, hands-on projects and creative activities, while teachers in attendance are provided with the resources for improving STEM lesson plans that focus on energy topics.

"Recognizing a national shortage in the number and quality of students entering science, technology, engineering and math fields, Purdue launched this summer program to inspire students to consider one of the many fields related to energy sciences and engineering in their educational and career goals," said Pankaj Sharma, managing director of the Purdue Energy Center who has a courtesy faculty appointment in technology leadership and innovation. "Another primary goal is to inspire teachers to communicate the importance of this relatively new and highly interdisciplinary area of scholarship in their classrooms."

The center is part of Purdue's Global Sustainability Institute, which was launched in Discovery Park to coordinate research efforts in sustainability challenges such as climate change, energy, food security, the environment and water.

Duke has partnered with the Indianapolis Indians to give the Difference Maker awards. In addition to a certificate, each winner receives 20 free tickets for family and friends to the game during which they are honored. Duke's operations in Indiana provide about 7,500 megawatts of owned electric capacity to approximately 800,000 customers in a 23,000-square-mile service area, making it the state's largest electric supplier. 

Media Contacts: Phillip Fiorini, Purdue University, 765-496-3133,

Anna Schultz, Purdue University, 812-447-5229,

Angeline Protogere, Duke Energy, 317-838-1338, 

Sources: Maureen McCann, 765-494-1610,

Pankaj Sharma, 765-496-7452, 

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