Brightness on display: students showcase solar panel project

Posted on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 9:07 am

Joshua McKinley (at left) explains the “Solar Application Project” to fellow high school students.

Joshua McKinley (at left) explains the “Solar Application Project” to fellow high school students.

Northumberland High School’s Capstone math class showed off its “Solar Applications Project” at the school Wednesday.
The seniors, under Javonda Ashton’s tutelage and with the help of the Northumberland Association for Progressive Stewardship’s Lee Allain, rejuvenated a solar panel built by last year’s class and configured it to power a cell phone recharging station. The station will be able to handle 12 devices recharging at once and will be available to seniors.
The project involved more than simply replacing cells in the existing solar panel, but also designing weather protection for the utilized electronics and configuring the panel to power the recharging station. Each step involved testing and evaluation. Even ordering the recharging station itself wasn’t a simple proposition. The first one that the seniors obtained didn’t work to suit them, so they obtained a different one.
The work on the station could be delicate; the cells in the panel were “very tender,” NAPS president Bill Estell noted. Allain confirmed that “One fell apart in my hands.” There are 120 such cells in the panel and can generate 120 Watts when the sun is shining. A cable will connect the panel to the recharging station in the school’s “Gateway to STEM” room (with STEM standing for science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
The seniors, who are planning to study an array of things in college ranging from criminal justice to medical school, agreed that the project had brought them a higher awareness of environmental science. “It definitely got my attention,” Emily Sprague said.
Even though the project was school work, it didn’t seem so to the students. “We were so interested in it [that] it went by quickly,” Cathleen Hart said.
“From the first turn-on, their renovated array worked.  It provided power – not smoke,” Allain said.
Principal Travis Burns pointed out that such hands-on learning is gaining popularity in educational circles.
“Project based learning is the way education should be going,” he said.
The original panel and this year’s upgrade were funded by $700 in grants from NAPS.

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