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Teen STEM lab championed by Travis Kelce goes zero-carbon solar with boost from KC corporate leaders


A solar installation at Operation Breakthrough’s new Ignition Lab on Troost Avenue is expected to power the STEM space for students — made possible by a team of Kansas City corporate leaders committed to clean energy and support for the Travis Kelce-backed complex. Read more at StartlandNews.com.

Mounted atop a central canopy at the site, the project is set to provide onsite zero-carbon solar generation for the Ignition Lab, which is designed to enable students to acquire work experiences, internships, client-connected projects, college credits and industry-recognized credentials.

The Black & Veatch Foundation — the Kansas City-based global infrastructure company’s charitable giving arm — was among the project’s funders, while Black & Veatch also engaged as the solar project design lead and videographer. Other members of the consortium team behind the solar canopy include Sun Partners International, JE Dunn, MRIGlobal, and RisingSun Solar.

“It is humbling to collaborate with Operation Breakthrough and others to develop, fund, and complete this exciting new solar project at the Ignition Lab that will positively impact our community for years,” said Keith Small, associate vice president at  Black & Veatch. “The new Ignition Lab provides a comprehensive living laboratory environment for students, furthers STEM education, and creates opportunities to reduce opportunity gaps.”

“The vision is to give them a safe haven where they can continue to find role models, discover interests and develop skills once they age out of OB’s after-school program,” Kelce said previously. “Together with OB’s staff and supporters, we’ll create a co-working space where teens will have the support, resources and opportunity to explore careers in STEM, launch their own entrepreneurial ventures and gain real-world experience.”

Aligned with Kansas City’s Real World Learning initiative, the Ignition Lab expands Operation Breakthrough’s services to high schoolers, providing 14- to 18-year-olds with opportunities to explore various STEM subjects including energy audits, siting, engineering, drones, graphic design, 3D printing and laser cutting, cyber security/IT, fabrication and construction, coding and more.

“The Ignition Lab not only provides students with technical training, opening new doors for what are historically higher-paying STEM jobs right out of high school, but it also expands the opportunity for these students to figure out which path they want to take in college,” said Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough.