Professional Golf Association and urban public school are words not often encountered in the same sentence, but in East Lake at Drew Charter School, this relationship runs deep. We are the home of the Eagles, but I am pretty sure we were secretly named for the impressive golf shot rather than the more common high flying bird of prey.

Each year around this time, thanks to the relationships fostered by the East Lake Foundation, our students are invited to the Tour Championship that literally happens across the street from our school. Our students not only see the PGA’s finest at work, but we are able to visit the sponsors of the event. The Southern Company invited us to join them at their “So Cool Zone” this year where we could learn about electricity: how it is generated, stored, moved, and used most efficiently in the real world.  

Our fifth graders, who are learning about energy in class right now, used Augmented Reality (AR) to experience the ways that energy can be used efficiently to help modern cities. Our students gladly grabbed the iPads that featured the AR app and got to work investigating EVs (Electric Vehicles) as they moved around the city and as they eventually stopped over in a modern virtual house with all the modern energy saving features. Students excitedly exclaimed when they figured something out and gained new information. Linda Ward, a fifth grade Elementary Academy student at Drew said, “It was very fun. If you moved the iPad around, you could see different spots and you could see how electricity could help the environment--like the EV charging stations. It told me how you could use electricity instead of gas to power the cars.”

This experience gave the students a great overview of electricity in an engaging way!  


Drew Charter fifth graders experiment with AR technology and learn about innovations in electricity.

In addition to virtually experiencing EVs, the exhibit had a BMW i8 on display that wowed the students. Students marveled at the design and capabilities of this atypical (at least for our side of town)  electric vehicle. You could literally see the wheels turning for our students as they were thinking about how this applies to their own work back at school. At Drew, we use a Project Based Learning model of instruction and for the next quarter, our 5th grade students are tasked with coming up with an innovation in the field of electricity and magnetism for the Science Fair.  

Our high school engineering students were especially taken with the actual Tiny House that was part of the display, as they are working on constructing their own Tiny House right now. Students learned about the innovative systems and technology in the space as well as thoroughly studied the interior layout.  


Drew students visit the Southern Company Tiny House at the Tour Championships, where they learn about new technologies that are energy efficient.

Senior Academy student, Gary Sheppard said, “The major benefit to seeing the tiny house was getting to see the infrastructure to be able to see how we might incorporate those systems in our own design. I was sent to study the HVAC system knowing that I would have to share my knowledge with the group when we got back to school. One of the hosts told me that the HVAC system was a mini-split system which they told me helps control the flow of air in a small area, which is beneficial for a tiny house because it is cost efficient and energy efficient.” 

The observations the Senior Academy students made  will prove especially helpful as they are currently in the design phase of the interior of their own structure. 

Having the opportunity to use AR technology and see real innovations first hand was definitely inspiring for our students, but more importantly they were able to conduct first-hand research that will help them as they innovate and create back on campus!