On the 27-acre acre campus at Learning Gate Community School, in Lutz, sixth-graders have built solar panels that power and charge electrical devices.
So, why did they do that?
They gave several reasons for taking on the challenge.
They wanted to create clean energy, to stop CO2 emissions, to educate themselves and others about solar power and, last, but not least, to impress Elon Musk.
Working with solar panels was a new experience for sixth-grader Harvey Lemieux.
He said the project was fun and informative, teaching students a lot about creating clean energy.
It took the first quarter of the school year to build the solar panels and wire them so the power can be converted into electricity. Once they had the power, the students — supervised by environmental science teacher Steve Warrener — were able to plug in devices such as a power drill, as well as a karaoke machine speaker to listen to some of their favorite tunes.
They also were able to charge a modified and rebuilt go-kart.
The kart is aptly named “Edmond” — after Edmond Becquerel. He’s the French physicist credited with the discovery of the photovoltaic effect, the operating principle of the solar cell. The student’s kart is fully electric and runs on recycled batteries from a front loader.
“Learning Gate is a pretty special school. I don’t know of any other school that’s building solar power stations, but I sure hope there will be more,” the teacher said.
The project is more than just building solar panels. The students worked out how the panels would work, even preparing a professional presentation they would use, if approaching a company seeking a solar-power solution.
The students had to research every part and component, Warrener said.
That showed them “why they have to do it that way and why it would be the most efficient way,” Warrener said.
“What the project really did was show that it’s not hard to use solar power and go with clean energy,” the teacher added. “In fact, it’s easily accessible and that it can be done, it can be made affordable and it can be built — even by kids!”
The project was so successful, it will allow Learning Gate to lower its electric bill and carbon footprint.
It also was used to charge up a teacher’s electric car — and, also used to power a house, Warrener said.
During Hurricane Ian, some houses in his neighborhood lost power. Warrener offered to bring over the panels. In one case, the energy was used to keep a fridge running to avoid spoiling food and also to run other devices, the day after the storm.
“I don’t even know how that happened (powering a house),” Lemieux said. “Just taking the power of the sun and turning it into electricity for a house — that’s just crazy to me.”
“That was pretty cool and amazing that it was able to power a house,” sixth-grader Ellis Brodski added. “We had just been using it to charge the kart or power the (karaoke machine), so to see it have a big use like that was pretty cool.
“I thought we were able to make these solar panels that work pretty easily, so I think others should do it, too.”
“It could save so much money and energy, so yeah, I think that those solar farms that people build, I think people take it for granted and that more people should use solar power,” he said. “Maybe more schools can get students to do what we did and build it as a project and then it helps the school save money.”
Published October 26, 2022