Texas Border Business
By Marisol Villarreal
EDINBURG, Texas – More than 3,000 elementary students and the general public witnessed the first live performance of UTRGV’s “Energy & U” spectacle, a show filled with explosions, bubbles and lots of learning and fun.
The science extravaganza, held recently at the UTRGV Performing Arts Center in Edinburg, was a one-hour, fully produced show that combined chemical demonstrations with the natural connection between energy and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education fields.
The performance’s central theme was interconverting different forms of energy, and emphasized the First Law of Thermodynamics: We cannot create or destroy energy, only transform it.
From 250 to 500 audience members attended each show.
Show host Dr. Eleazar Marquez, a UTRGV faculty member in mechanical engineering, said he enjoyed teaching children and members of the community about energy and what it can do for those interested in becoming scientists or engineers. It is important, he said, to share those topics to a Hispanic audience.
“When I was in seventh grade, I decided to become an engineer,” he said. “But it’s never too late to decide what you would like to pursue when you graduate high school.”
Youngsters who attended the shows, held Jan. 9-14, watched an in-person pendulum stunt with a bowling ball; observed a challenge between two people to see who could lift “one ton” the fastest; and witnessed how dish soap could turn into fire.
A variety of private, charter and public schools from the McAllen, Sharyland, Edinburg, Hidalgo and Mission school districts attended the show during its six-day run.
The show’s developer, executive producer and master of ceremonies is Dr. Karen Lozano, a Julia Beecherl endowed professor in mechanical engineering and director of the UTRGV Nanotechnology Center of Excellence. Helping produce the live show was everything she originally hoped it would be.
“It definitely met my expectations 100 percent,” Lozano said. “I knew the audience was going to like it because I’ve seen it done in Minnesota, and I liked it as an adult.”
Seeing children and audience members react with positive energy toward the show was worthwhile for her and her team, Lozano said, especially because it took about two years of work to adapt the script, develop graphics, sounds, demos, casting and more.
Leading up to the live show’s premiere, the “Energy & U” team worked through the Christmas break with 10-12 hour shifts daily to adjust the audio-visuals, order chemicals needed for experiments, establish the roles of students and set overall logistics.
“Our Energy & U team is the dream team,” Lozano said. “The professionalism they showed, the engagement. You just know they enjoyed working on this project. Everything was amazing.”
This won’t be the last time audiences will be able to enjoy “Energy & U.”
“We’re getting ready for our May shows,” Lozano said. “Our current website will be updated with registration dates and times in mid-February.”
The goal is to hold yearly performances every second week of January and every May.
For more information about “Energy & U,” visit: https://www.utrgv.edu/energyandu/
ABOUT ENERGY & U
Energy & U at UTRGV first premiered as virtual presentations in 2021, as part of Engineers Week at the university.The show originally was planned as a live performance, but to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines, Lozano created a virtual educational opportunity that helped the community learn about energy and the importance of learning and innovation in the STEM fields.
More than 9,000 guests registered for the virtual show that year.
Inspired by the University of Minnesota’s Energy & U show, UTRGV’s show also was adapted into a film that premiered on the UTRGV Edinburg Campus in February 2022.The Spanish film adaption, “Energía Y TÚ,” recently won a Lone Star Emmy in the Informational/Instructional – Short Form or Long Form Content category.