Seeking sustainability: Student projects hope to help the planet

Eagle Valley Middle School eighth graders Talon Farcello, left, Karlee Timm and River Jarrett show their “epic” water saving idea that shows combining sinks and toilets into one system at the May 10 Project ReCharge event in their school gym.

Eagle Valley Middle School eighth graders Talon Farcello, left, Karlee Timm and River Jarrett show their “epic” water saving idea that shows combining sinks and toilets into one system at the May 10 Project ReCharge event in their school gym.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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The Project ReCharge event at Eagle Valley Middle School hosted by Reno educational nonprofit Envirolution on May 10 was the ultimate regional science fair bringing together participants from multiple school districts, community organizations and businesses.

Light bulbs lit up the school’s gym and onlookers tried biking or sitting in tire chairs as they browsed ideas to help solve social justice or engineering needs.

Project ReCharge, a hands-on, project-based science, technology, engineering, art and math educational program focused on preparing students with the skills to understand sustainability and inspire them to pursue careers in clean energy or environmental sectors, held a celebration at EVMS with various projects on display turning students’ ideas into solid community concepts. Since 2014, 24 student projects have been implemented, according to the nonprofit, and the program has helped to save more than $1.2 million in energy costs and reduced enough energy to operate 931 homes and decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 4,508 metric tons.

EVMS eighth graders Talon Farcello, River Jarrett and Karlee Timm proposed to onlookers their “epic” water saving idea in which they would consolidate sinks and toilets as one system to conserve water.

“When you wash your hands, where does that water go?” Farcello asked, referring a diagram of a filter system they created as a team. “It’s wasted. We want to use that water. So water goes all the way down the pipes, and there’s a filter right in here. It goes in here, and that’s where the water would go. If it flows in there, it stops overflowing … in case we need backup water.”

Jarrett said their idea would help to save about 42 gallons on a daily basis, or about 1.28 gallons per single flush and the team said it would encourage people to wash their hands more if they used the toilet. They produced a video of their project as they conducted research.

Envirolution typically provides criteria to teachers for students in the fourth to 12th grades in September, with most typically helping younger students and having a better sense of how their students would perform well for their needs, according to Laura Scarselli, Project ReCharge manager for Envirolution.

Twelve presenters attended the celebration from various communities, including Carson City, Douglas, Nye, Washoe and Clark counties. Projects selected for awards needed to show solid plans for implementation and genuine thought into sustainability and a desire for reducing Nevada’s carbon footprint.

“For implementation, we would really like (students) to have a solid plan put together as well as community support, so like a vice principal or administration and a company that they’re working with, as well as how they’re executing their plan,” Scarselli said.

From Pinecrest Academy of Northern Nevada in Sparks, fifth graders Felicity Jackson and Kylee Twichell demonstrated their upcycling concept to show it’s better to adapt discarded materials and trash such as pans, pencilboxes, old crayons and posters rather than dumping everything into a landfill.

“You can save money by adapting what you already have into a unique masterpiece. It doesn’t always work because it can become a big project,” Felicity Jackson acknowledged.

“You can use your imagination and make things that not a lot of people know about,” Twichell said.

Dave Jackson, Felicity’s father, said he was proud of his daughter’s work and also spent the afternoon perusing other students’ projects from the region.

“I know how much she’s been getting excited at home about it for weeks,” he said. “We’ve been collecting these bottletops and working on these ideas and just seeing her genuine enthusiasm. It’s been really good to see … and it’s really encouraging for this generation and to see them expanding their minds. It’s great just to see them having fun with it.”

Envirolution also had a chance to show its Energy Bike Ambassadors program that encourages girls and nonbinary and genderqueer students to build energy-generating bikes from scratch as well as the components, tools and the wiring. Students held demonstrations and discussed their recent workshop from April about their engineering process.

“I think my favorite part is being able to celebrate all of the hard work that happens in classrooms that so many people don’t get to see,” Scarselli said. “(I like) bringing that to the community and letting the students and teachers really feel that what they do really matters and getting to show it off.”

Also May 10 was an EVMS denim and battery drive. Kimberly Tucker, EVMS’ sixth to eighth grade STEM teacher, helped her Building Engineers II class lead the collection as a part of a sustainability project for Project ReCharge, with the drive to be continued in the fall, she said.

“My students were asked to identify and solve a sustainability problem in Nevada,” Tucker said. “They used the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals as inspiration.”

Four of Tucker’s students worked with Redwood Materials, a company that recycles lithium-ion batteries based in Carson City, and her class welcomed a guest speaker to explain the recycling process, she said.

“My whole class worked together to create posters to advertise the event, and we had five student volunteers that helped during the drive,” Tucker told the Appeal. “We do not yet have the final numbers, but we did have a decent turnout.”

The event’s denim drive, Project Pants, put on by two of Tucker’s students, resulted in the collection of 30 students with the goal of keeping everyday clothing from entering the landfill, she said. They also collected batteries of all types, including a broken hoverboard, an electric bike battery, old cell phones and old laptops and tablets.


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