Flashlight Kits Shine the Light on Careers in Science and Technology

FirstEnergy Foundation donates $5,000 to provide kits to students in western Pennsylvania
stem kits unpacking

Employees of FirstEnergy Pennsylvania Electric Company, which does business in southwest areas of the state as West Penn Power, recently gathered at the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania headquarters in Greensburg to assemble 450 STEM kits for fifth through seventh grade students attending Westmoreland County school districts.

While the build-it-yourself flashlight kit won’t produce a reliable flashlight to keep on hand for the occasional power outage or camping trip, it is the perfect tool to introduce to children how electricity flows through a circuit and brightens our lives.

FirstEnergy and the FirstEnergy Foundation have long supported educational activities in the communities served by its electric companies, particularly those that encourage students to pursue careers in the critical fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The Foundation provided a $5,000 grant for the STEM kits for students in western Pennsylvania.

“This initiative introduces children to the electric utility industry and helps drum up interest in these careers at a young age to get more engineers and mathematicians into the work force,” said Lori Swettlen, a Senior Business Analyst in the company’s energy efficiency department and one of numerous FirstEnergy volunteers on hand packaging the kits.  

Elisha Serotta, Volunteer Coordinator for the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, said it will be left up to teachers at the various schools whether students build the flashlights in class as part of a lesson or tackle the project at home. The packet, which includes aluminum foil for wiring and tiny LED bulbs, is designed to spark an interest in science and technology with fun activities.  

Don’t Give Up: Part of the lesson plan provided in the packet encourages students that if they don’t achieve a desired result the first time, keep persevering. It also informs students that the great inventor Thomas Edison had to try 1,000 times to perfect the lightbulb.

“You may not get the LED to light up on your first try or even the hundredth time, but don’t give up!” reads the lesson. “Finding out what doesn’t work is often just as important as finding out what does work.”

Reinforcing the message that failure is OK, volunteers loaded two books into the packet, one titled “Epic Fails: The Race to Space. Countdown to Liftoff.” The books focus on how to solve problems and learn from mistakes. 

Grateful for Volunteers: Serotta was impressed with the 22 volunteers who created the packets and placed them in cartons a full 30 minutes faster than the allotted two hours. 

“You can always tell when the engineers come in. They always figure out a faster way of doing it,” she said. “We’re grateful for their time!”

Bob Groff, a FirstEnergy Distribution System Operator Supervisor,  was eager to volunteer in this effort because it took him back to his own days as a child.

“I know back when I was a kid how much I would have enjoyed putting together my own flashlight. I like to volunteer my time knowing it will help kids,” he said. 

Last Modified: January 24, 2024