STEM students see the light | NevadaAppeal.com

STEM students see the light

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus
Students walk in the sixth-grade hall at Churchill County Middle School. Because of a proposal made by CCMS students and accepted by Envirolution, the lights have been switched to LEDs, which will save the school district money.
Steve Ranson / LVN

Churchill County Middle School students who showed their entrepreneurial spirit now see the light.

Because of their proposal to exchange incandescent lighting with LEDs, they will save the school district thousands and thousands of dollars over time.

Vanessa Roberson, executive director of Envirolution in Reno, which was founded by four Yale students in 2007, has developed Project ReCharge into its flagship program in Nevada in 2015 to recognize students for their projects that make the environment friendlier and to provide instructional material to classrooms. She said Tesla is one of the program’s partners as is the Nevada Department of Education’s gift fund and several other foundations.

An initial disbursement of $262,700 to Envirolution was granted this year by Tesla for Project ReCharge, and Robertson said the program will help Nevada’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes and sustainability efforts at the K-12 level.

Robertson said four Fallon eighth-grade students who submitted their proposal last year as seventh graders was one of 10 groups in Nevada to receive recognition and funding.

“They did some analysis and energy data collection, and did a great job with it,” Robertson said. “They came up with an energy proposal to reduce that energy use.”

The students in Randie Orong’s class proposed to switch out the 23-watt florescent lights in the sixth-grade building and replace them with 14-watt LEDs. Robertson said each LED light will last 25 times longer than a regular light. Principal Amy Word said she’s excited for the students to receive acceptance of the proposal and to celebrate their success.

“It’s nice to be recognized and see this proposal actually happen,” she said.

In explaining the project to guests and the team from Envirolution, student William Wallace said his group, which included Payton Smith, Teon Erwin and Skai Shults, must have counted the light bulbs 10 times to obtain an accurate number.

“We’ll be saving about $1,600 a year,” he said, “and over time it adds up. It (savings) can go to water bottle stations.”

Orong said the students did their homework in their analysis and “did their math.”

“They did a lot of checking and rechecking their facts and a lot of investigation and research on the internet,” she said.

Robertson also said the students had excellent data in making their proposal. Word added the school will see a reduction in its power bill because of the new light bulbs.

“Envirolution is providing thousands and thousands of dollars of lights to our school,” she said. “Overtime when we save money on energy, we can put that money into other things. This will benefit a sustainable energy source that’s less taxing on our environment.”

Another group of last year’s seventh-graders who proposed the importance of solar power, did not have their project accepted, but Robertson commended the students.

“We like how much you saved the school,” she said.

Edmond Brody Allyn, Kasey Lattin and April McCutcheon were in the second group.

Robertson, who was accompanied by Laura Scarselli, project manager; Delanie Bruce, Americorps; and Chaja Hogeweg, marketing and design, said Project ReCharge empowers middle- and high-school students to become energy detectives in finding ways to save their schools money from energy efficiency proposals.

Since 2015, Robertson said the project can be found in 40 schools across nine Northern Nevada school districts, and she added the program will eventually expand to the southern part of the Silver State. Not only has Project ReCharge partnered with 117 secondary teachers by offering more than 6,000 hours of training but it also given teachers access to 16 hands-on STEM lessons and activities for about 23,000 students.

Envirolution has received the Golden Pinecone Sustainability Award for Best Education Program.