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Students work to build alternative energy systems

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A few University High School students have worked this semester to design, build and test renewable energy devices. Three of them shared their work at a May 5 presentation. From left are Jaiden Van Doorn, Anthony Jones and Jonathan Gallegos. They are shown with science teacher Andrea Batista and Abigail Gallegos, Jonathan’s sister. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Eight local high school students have spent the semester creating renewable energy devices.

The University High School seniors and juniors have been enrolled in the Clean Energy Systems course taught by science faculty member Andrea Batista, who attended a summer 2018 program to prepare for leading the class.

In recent weeks, the students have presented some of the results of their work on solar and wind energy and DC motor projects to the public, including at a presentation to education and business leaders held at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, on a local radio show and at a May 5 Sunday Funday event at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico. (They also were scheduled to present to school board members on Tuesday.)

“One of (Superintendent Ann McIlroy’s) visions for RISD (Roswell Independent School District) is that we want kids to run to school,” said RISD Director of Federal Programs Jennifer Cole during the Historical Society talk.

“These kids actually showed up to school at 1 o’clock this afternoon to prep for this presentation, so they are running to school,” she said. “It is all about hands-on experiences and getting them to careers and to college and success beyond high school.”

Cole helped to obtain funding for the course, which requires a lot of materials. She said the money came from Title 1 and grant funds. She also added that the class is the first clean energy lab, although the local school district has other project-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, including SystemsGo, a rocket-building course.

The three students at the Historical Society presentation were Jaiden Van Doorn, Jonathan Gallegos and Anthony Jones.

Part of the students’ presentation included an overview of southeast New Mexico energy, which is heavily dependent on oil and natural gas, a part of the state economy since 1927. A student explained that all energy sources have advantages and disadvantages.

“Of course we don’t need to completely take oil out of the economy,” said Gallegos, “but it is a good idea to introduce other energy sources to make the world a better place and hopefully more inhabitable for future generations.”

They also showed the prototypes of devices they had built and tested, including small wind turbines, small solar panels designed for use in third-world countries and capable of powering a cellphone, and a direct current (DC) motor. In addition to the design, build and experimental work, the students also took written tests on the fundamental facts and principles behind the work.

Having finished these three projects early, some members of the class intend to spend the last few weeks of the academic year doing research on biofuels, said Jones.

The students said they were exposed to the possibility of new academic or career fields, gained good experience, practiced their presentation skills and learned about the importance of teamwork.

“I really like this class because in other classes we get lectured and are not really able to get hands-on,” said Van Doorn.

Batista said that her goal is to enlarge and expand the reach of the course by teaching it again in future years and eventually offering the second course in the curriculum. Students taking both courses would be prepared to test for certification in the photovoltaic solar field, she said.

Other students in the University High class are Ulises Soto, Kevin Avery, Greg Archuleta, Angel Borunda and Luke Lara.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.