Minneapolis

Just B Solar shows kids just how fun clean energy can be

April 2023

What’s more fun than a solar go-kart? Not much, according to Keith Dent, president of Just B Solar and organizer of several youth solar summer camps around the metro area.

In 2022, Just B Solar received a CERTs Seed Grant to host a day of fun open to all at Shiloh Temple in north Minneapolis: kids learned how solar works, built mini solar-powered cardboard homes, met exciting characters like a Minneapolis firefighter from Station #20 and mascots Sunny Solar and Penny Panel, ate a hot breakfast and lunch catered by Soul 2 Go, and of course, did some laps in the solar go-kart in the church’s parking lot.

“It was always make it fun, otherwise, the principles are there. Make sure they have something to eat. Make sure they learn. And make sure they have fun.”

Keith Dent, Just B Solar president

children standing with a sun mascotHaving the camp at Shiloh Temple was also personally significant for Dent — in 2015, he hosted his first Just B Solar summer camp at the church. At the time, he was also helping manage the installation of the community solar garden there, which would provide cost-savings to several congregation members and north Minneapolis neighbors. 

Dent was relatively new to solar back then, and was usually found watching his own kids, in addition to babysitting his nieces and nephews in the summers. He felt a social responsibility to learn more about solar, and more importantly, to bring along others so they could all learn together. So, after bringing the kids with him to several events to learn about solar, and after little success in finding a solar summer camp, he decided to start one himself. 

He wanted to design a safe place to foster creativity, so that he could learn and think about solar with, and from, his campers.

“Adults are set in their ways, but to kids anything is possible. Provide them with ideas and you never know what they will run with.”

Keith Dent, Just B Solar president

kids making solar modelsEight years on, Dent has hosted multiple camps across the Twin Cities, and along with his other programs has expanded to cover a full k-12 solar education curriculum. For older, high school students interested in solar, he offers green career exploration, pre-training for the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners - a well regarded certification for energy service professionals), and employment connections. And, he is always surprised at the amount of parents who like to stick around at his camps to learn about solar.

He says that interest, across all sorts of differences, is what’s most rewarding. “Even the kids who are like, ‘Eh my mom made me come,’ and they’re a hard sell at first…at the end of the day that’s the kid running around saying ‘I don’t want to go…’ Every time I have a camp these kids are just totally carefree, have so much imagination, having fun in a safe environment and learning — it is always worth it.”

Dent’s goal is to continue with Just B Solar camps and offer new opportunities for students of all walks of life — not just those associated with the school district or a particular organization. For the future he says he wants Just B Solar to be a point of connection to look back on among all the campers who attend.

PROJECT SNAPSHOT

Just B Solar - Intro to Solar 101

Clean Energy Focus: Youth solar education

Metro CERT Seed Grant: $5,000

Other Funds Leveraged: Fire Department and church volunteers and organization budget

People Involved and Reached: 17 youth, 10 adults

Keith also asked us to add a couple of thank yous to the people who made this event possible!

"From the most loving part of my heart, I absolutely have to give the biggest thank you to Michael Arquin, Founder and Owner of KidWind! Michael has been the biggest supporter of Just B Solar unwaveringly since the beginning and to this very day, in so many ways.

"And a very big and special thank you to Cavis Adams and the Minneapolis Fire Department for finding the time to come out and help create a very memorable experience!"

Just B Solar camp participants and Mpls Fire Department

Photos courtesy of Just B Solar

MORE IDEAS, DELIVERED

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