Mechanical engineering assistant professor brings STEM education to Detroit Public Schools

Dr. Arava, (far right) and his team with Detroit Public Schools students.

Leela Arava, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is doing his part to bring STEM education to Detroit Public Schools (DPS) through his Mobile Energy Lab.

With a team of nine graduate and undergraduate students, Arava travels to schools in the Detroit area to teach students the importance of green energy through hands-on experiments.

“We were assembling small solar panels in the classroom and the students wanted to take it into the field,” said Arava. “We hooked up some low-power LED lights to the panel, but they couldn’t handle the increase in power, so we explained to the students why it wasn’t working and changed our LEDs to ones that could support the power and also we stored part of solar energy in the battery.”

Arava was inspired to create the Mobile Energy Lab after seeing that DPS students were below the state average in science proficiency.

 “It was really eye-opening for me. I wanted to do something in the community,” said Arava.

The idea behind the Mobile Energy Lab was based on Arava’s own research on energy storage and batteries. He is developing a miniaturized  lithium-ion rechargeable battery that can withstand temperatures up to 150 degrees Celcius for oil & gas studies and high-energy sulfur batteries for electronic vehicles and consumer electronics. Arava hopes to use his research to inspire DPS students to consider STEM fields.

“As Michigan’s only urban, public research university, Wayne State is uniquely positioned to address this issue and help propel these young individuals into successful careers in the sciences,” said Arava.

View more photos and find more information about the Mobile Energy Lab and Dr. Arava's research on his blog.