Staff You Should Know: Pat Higby

Pat Higby's workspace is unlike any other office. Small solar cars, miniature wind turbines, and "panther puffers" sit on the shelves, along with spare parts and pieces. Bins of popsicle sticks and LED lights line the walls. And the best part is, it's all free.

Pat Higby
Because of the state's STEM Scale-Up program, Higby is able to provide a lot of services for free, including activities and games for students.

Higby is an energy educator, and she is responsible for developing the energy education program at UNI's Center for Energy and Environmental Education (CEEE). She also manages the CEEE's outreach on energy efficiency and renewable energy to a variety of organizations, including utility companies, student groups and county agencies. And thanks to the state's Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Scale-Up program, she's able to provide a lot of services for free.

Higby's Fabulous Resources in Energy Education (FREE) program is one of 12 chosen Scale-Up programs to heighten interest and achievement in STEM for students throughout the state.

The program provides professional development for state educators through workshops, as well as a materials loan program. This means that all of the cars, wind turbines and hydrogen fuel-celled cars lining her office are shipped out for free to schools around the state. The CEEE's website also provides teachers with a number of activities and games for their students, such as energy and weatherization jeopardy, Green Scattergories and a home energy inventory. The program's other features include an energy poster contest, a 30-foot mobile power tower and an Energy Games competition.

"You can't learn with empty hands, so we give students the tools they need to learn," says Higby.

In 2011-2012, the program reached 148 UNI students; 32 UNI faculty; 18,858 K through 12 students; 1,150 K through 12 teachers; and 3,944 adults. Another great thing about the program is that it doesn't just focus on the Cedar Valley area. Higby hosts workshops across the state in places like Tama, Sioux City, Dubuque and Oelwein.

"I'm really kind of a connector here," says Higby. "I'm connecting UNI with the K through 12 community; I'm connecting us with community colleges; and I'm connecting us with the other Regents universities. I'm even connecting us with the legislature when I go down for STEM days. I always try to wear purple anywhere I go. I feel like I'm representing UNI all around."

Higby plans to continue her work with the FREE loan program. She says the next step is to develop curriculum she can give to teachers along with the activities.

Whatever is in store for the coming year, Higby and the CEEE's energy education program will continue to provide quality kits and programs to Iowa's schools.

For more information on the CEEE or the FREE loan program, visit