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Black & Veatch, Operation Breakthrough Launch Solar-Powered Learning Lab Honoring Retired CEO Steve Edwards

OVERLAND PARK, Kan.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Black & Veatch, a leading global provider of critical human infrastructure solutions, and Operation Breakthrough Inc., a nonprofit organization in Kansas City, Mo., have launched the Steve Edwards Renewable Energy Lab. The lab commemorates Edwards’ 44-year career at Black & Veatch and honors his contributions across global communities in the field of sustainability. The company celebrated Edwards’ retirement in late August.

The Steve Edwards Renewable Energy Lab will play a vital role in Operation Breakthrough’s teen-led Hydroponic Container Farm called “Growing Outside the Box.” The farm will be 50 percent powered by renewable energy generated from the lab’s rooftop solar panels and stored in lithium-ion batteries. Students will learn about the process of generating, storing and deploying renewable energy to grow hydroponic crops in two large gardens. In addition, they will experiment with wind power and research how hydroponic crops grow using traditional versus renewable sources of energy.

The opening of the Steve Edwards Renewable Energy Lab is a testament to the contributions Steve has made to the community — and to sustainability — during his tenure as Black & Veatch’s seventh senior leader in the company’s 107-year history,” said Mario Azar, Black & Veatch’s Chairman and CEO. “The lab will provide a powerful tool for high school students to learn new skills that will prepare them for the future while contributing to research and making our world a better place.”

The crops from the farm will be sold through local contracts with grocers, restaurants, and farmers’ markets, and they will be provided at no cost to parents of participating students. Revenues will sustain the project and fund wages for student workers who are 14 and older. The project and business model will serve as a template that can be replicated in other neighborhoods to promote healthier, more resilient communities as well as job training and creation.

It is an honor for Operation Breakthrough to be included in celebrating Steve Edwards’ legacy at Black & Veatch,” said Mary Esselman, CEO, Operation Breakthrough. “We are excited about the opportunity to carry on his commitment to sustainable energy and water infrastructure. The lab will help ignite a passion for entrepreneurship and future career interests in our students as they engage in real-world experiences and problem solving on a daily basis.”

Editor’s Note:

In the fall of 2021, the muffler shop adjacent to Operation Breakthrough was transformed into a lab to provide workforce development and entrepreneurship to over 300 high school students from underserved neighborhoods in Kansas City. The existing 5,875-square-foot building was renovated to create vibrant, flexible bays where students experience real-world learning in multimedia production, culinary arts, product design (2D/3D printing), digital electronics, graphic design, robotics, computer tech and automotive/engineering, and other emerging STEM priorities. New construction includes 2,250 square feet of complementary metal buildings for arts, fabrication, manufacturing and green tech. Learn more about Black & Veatch’s involvement in the Operation Breakthrough Ignition Lab here.

About Black & Veatch

Black & Veatch is a 100-percent employee-owned global engineering, procurement, consulting and construction company with a more than 100-year track record of innovation in sustainable infrastructure. Since 1915, we have helped our clients improve the lives of people around the world by addressing the resilience and reliability of our most important infrastructure assets. Our revenues in 2021 exceeded US$3.3 billion. Follow us on and on social media.

About Operation Breakthrough

Operation Breakthrough, incorporated in 1971, provides a safe, loving and educational environment for children in poverty and empowers their families through advocacy, emergency aid and education. Its two-generation approach includes support groups, adult therapy, emergency services and parenting classes for parents, as well as on-site medical and dental care, speech and occupational therapy and behavioral health programming for more than 700 children ages six weeks to 18-years-old.


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