For Community College of Baltimore County student Michael Shippen, receiving a scholarship earlier this summer from the school was welcome news for his finances. But it wasn't just about the money.
As part of the Constellation STEM Scholars program, Shippen is among 20 students from all of CCBC's campuses who will get an up-close look at the school's 5.1-megawatt solar project as it is installed this fall.
Thanks to a partnership with Baltimore-based Constellation, an Exelon Corporation subsidiary, the Constellation STEM Scholars program will provide scholarships to the 20 students who are pursuing degrees and certificates in fields that require knowledge of science, technology, engineering or mathematics, a Constellation release said.
Eligible areas of study include engineering, HVAC, computer science and environmental science.
Shippen, a 35-year-old HVAC student, said he applied to the program at the recommendation of his program head after learning that it also offered real-world experience and contacts in the industry.
"It provides not only financial assistance, but also connections to internships," he said.
Scholarship recipients are invited to shadow the engineers and solar panel installers of Constellation's solar project at CCBC Essex, according to a Constellation release, where they will learn from the professionals installing the system what kind of work is required.
Shippen comes from a background in construction, and he said he is in the designing phase of building a home using some of the energy-efficient technologies he has learned about at the school.
Watching the installation up close, he said, is immensely beneficial for him.
Earlier this summer, Shippen shadowed some of the engineers and installers at CCBC Essex.
Having driven by the construction multiple times on his home campus of Catonsville, Shippen said the chance to see that installation up close was eye-opening.
"This is a great way for me to see the real-world application of what I'm learning," he said. "It kind of blew me away."
The solar project on the college's three main campuses of Catonsville, Dundalk and Essex is expected to supply more than a quarter of the school's electricity needs by the use of solar panels, according to earlier reports.
The panels are being installed on carports on the three campuses.
On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Shippen and other STEM scholarship awardees will meet for their first of several team-building sessions.
Scholarship recipients will be encouraged to join the school's STEM Club student group, take advantage of their access to quarterly STEM-related workshops and be connected with mentors, some of whom will be Constellation employees, said Constellation spokesperson Christina Pratt.
There will also be a series of lectures by professionals working in STEM-related industries available to the scholarship awardees, she said.
"The need for quality programs to encourage students to pursue careers in STEM fields has been well documented, particularly in the energy industry as we work toward a greener energy future," Joseph Nigro, CEO of Constellation said in a statement. "Constellation is dedicated to creating educational opportunities in our community. We are pleased that our contribution will enable CCBC to provide scholarships, guidance, and hands-on learning experiences to fulfill the need for capable and educated job candidates."
Constellation provided the school with a $50,000 grant to kick off the Constellation STEM Scholars program, the company announced earlier this month.
Shippen said he hopes to will begin construction on home after earning his associate's degree in applied science from CCBC in the spring.
He hopes to go into commercial control systems as a building engineer after finishing school.