AMS students get hands on with clean energy

by | Jun 4, 2018

Wednesday May 30 was Clean Energy Day at Auburn Middle School for grade 8 students. For the second year, AMS was awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to educate this class about the benefits of using clean energy in their daily lives. Additionally, the school received funds for its 216 students to attend the Ecotarium in Worcester.

Teachers Christine Robbins and Kerry Palumbo hosted the day-long, interactive set of science and technology learning activities, featuring guest speakers David Willis from UMass Lowell, and Shirley Young from SafvE Incorporated, participants from the solar industry, and even Lego.

Interactive exhibits were presented by students from Auburn High School and Holy Name High School, which boasts an on campus wind turbine. The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor was also represented and is an historic example of how hydropower spurred the industrial revolution in the United States.

The students visiting from Holy Name – Jacob Bowden, Anthony Cao, Carissa England, Carrina Carnrike and Danielle Frasco, along with advisor Jennifer Palumbo – worked with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and researched the development of the turbine project. The students explained how the school used and 8 unit storage cell system to store the electricity generated by the turbine. According to their presentation, the $1.5 million project installed about 8 years ago has since generated 5.425 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Holy Name students Carissa England, Danielle Frasco, Carrina Carnrike, Anthony Cao, and Jacob Bowden present on the wind turbine at Holy Name High School [Jeff LaBonte photo]


A group of Auburn students focused not on energy, but on agriculture. Demonstrating how plants can be grown to save space, Meaghan Contois, Madison Kapulka, Jason Henry, Sam Elwell and Maggie Grady built a vertical garden using plastic water bottles and a wooden garden trellis. For this experiment, the students used varieties of lettuce and mesclun, though they explained a wide variety of edibles can be grown using this method.

Sam Elwell and Jason Henry with their vertical garden [Jeff LaBonte photo]


Demonstrating solar energy, students Jayda Rodriguez, Dylan Tang, Sheeza Chaudry and Courtney Prescott compiled pros and cons of solar energy. While solar is clean, it can alse be expensive to install and requires a lot of panels to produce an equivalent amount of energy to fossil fuels. Tang demonstrated a fan-powered solar car, but noted how strong light was required to deliver adequate power to the model.

Dylan Tang demonstrates a solar fan-powered model car [Jeff LaBonte photo]

Outdoors, students participated in a hydroelectric test of sorts. After building small water turbines out of empty water bottles and foam fins, the students tied string to the neck of the bottle and mounted them beneath a sprinkler system. As water was pumped through the system turning the bottle, the string would unwind. The first bottle to break free was deemed the “winner”. Students were able to see how variations in their fin design created more and less efficient water turbine effects.

Students put their water wheels to the test [Jeff LaBonte photo]

While most people know about solar power and wind turbines, the surprise of the morning was an automobile powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. Charles A. Myers from the Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition brought a Toyota Mirai to the school for students and staff to examine. This zero emissions vehicle is considered by many to be the future in transportation.

MassCEC is a state economic development agency dedicated to accelerating the growth of the clean energy sector across the Commonwealth, to encourage interest in cleantech studies and careers, spur job creation, deliver statewide environmental benefits and to secure long-term economic growth for the people of Massachusetts.