Thursday, November 15, 2012

Students Create Mock Power Company, Creating Detailed Plans To Create Solar Energy For Their Homes

Instead of soaking up the sun's rays during summer vacation, a group of high school students in Oxnard learned to collect solar energy to provide power for homes or other buildings.
Gilbert "Rev" Martinez speaks to the audience while doing
part of a presentation for his mock solar energy company,
Earth Friendly. Martinez and other students were doing
final presentations for the Sun Power Solar Science Academy.

The SunPower Solar Science Academy offered a program to students in the Oxnard Union High School District as a way to spread the word about solar energy. It also provided the 19 students who participated with career options, according to Bobby Ram, managing director of SunPower Corp., a solar technology company with headquarters in San Jose.

"I like the idea of people living on the Earth for a long time rather than what's estimated now," said Gilbert Martinez, 17. "I've thought of being an environmental lawyer, and there are always engineering jobs that pop up. There's so much."

Most of the solar academy students belong to the Oxnard High School Green Technologies Academy, a program that emphasizes science, math and other skills that can be used in a career in environmental sciences. The students went through a weeklong program based at the Ventura County Electrical Apprenticeship offices in Oxnard.

Jacquelynn Gilyard, mother of academy participant Danielle Gilyard, 17, a student at Oxnard High School, said the program was exciting for her daughter.

"I thought it was wonderful. Every day she had so much to say. You know how when you usually ask teenagers what they did each day and they will say 'nothing'? Instead she would say, 'We did this, and we did that.' "

Ram said SunPower is running the summer programs at six schools in California and Arizona, with a total of 140 students and 24 teachers.

"We want to give these students and kids in high school the option of a career in 'green' technology while exposing them to various tasks such as sales, marketing and science," he said.

The SunPower Academy students formed smaller teams that created a solar power companies. Each company tried to identify one home that would be a good candidate for solar panels, working through such technical specifications as how much energy would be generated by panels placed on roofs with specific pitches and orientations. They presented their final project plans at an assembly last week at the Oxnard High School Performing Arts Center, where family members attended.

Ram, who was very popular with the students, said he grew up on the Fiji Islands without electricity, "so when I found solar energy, I was in love," he said.

The purpose of the academy was not only to educate the students about the savings and other benefits of solar power, which the school district uses at Rio Mesa, Oxnard and Pacific high schools, but also to introduce them to careers available in the field. He said that even as the economy has faltered, green energy companies have flourished.

"Nothing would make me prouder than to someday cross your paths at SunPower," he said.

The students visited solar power arrays at Haas Automation and learned about the solar panels at their schools, which they said would save the district $43.9 million dollars in energy costs over 25 years. The teenagers learned to estimate their carbon footprints and used their homes as examples of places where solar panels could be installed, working through the specifications for putting them on the roof, installing energy converters and hooking them up to appliances.

Jane Smith, 16, a student at Oxnard High, said the Green Technologies Academy appealed to her because she enjoys learning about the environment and she made friends.

"They told us about (the academy) in our sophomore year, and it sounded really fun. It's just regular classes, but with a lot of environmental stuff. It's fun. The best part is the group," she said.

Jan Quilantang, coordinator for the Green Technologies Academy, said the SunPower Academy program was a success.

"It's been a learning experience for all of us," she said.


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