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Grand Island Public offers 'pathway' to a greener world
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Grand Island Public offers 'pathway' to a greener world

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GIPS Academy of Engineering and Technology

Diego Espinoza, left, is a student in Grand Island Public Schools Academy of Engineering and Technology. Alternative Energy and Robotics teacher Alex Kemnitz helped guide the students.

Growing up in rural Mexico, Diego Espinoza always was aware of his surroundings, often contemplating the effects humans have on the landscapes where they grow up.

“I heard about carbon emissions, how they’re going to affect the environment,” Espinoza said. “I wanted to take care of the world that we live in. I got interested in why these things affect the environment, the environment that we live in, so I did my research about the topic. I figured out what climate change was all about – all the contributors into CO2 emissions.”

Eventually, Espinoza moved to Grand Island, where his curiosity about the environment persisted. He enrolled in Grand Island Public Schools, where he found a place to channel his curiosity: Grand Island Public Schools’ Academy of Engineering and Technology. He gravitated to the academy’s Alternative Energy Pathway.

Espinoza is one of about 20 students in the Alternative Energy Pathway. Alex Kemnitz is the alternative energy and robotics teacher, and indicated that like alternative energy itself, the pathway is constantly growing and evolving.

“We’re still growing, but this is ultimately our second full year of alternative energy,” Kemnitz said. “We’re still really budding in the way other pathways aren’t. We’ve had a lot of great success so far.”

One of those successes is a classroom-made solar concentrator. The large, shiny curved surface is positioned on a wooden frame, with a metal rod positioned in front of the curvature.

The result is a contraption that uses a parabola – engineered by students from paper to product – to capture energy from sunlight, Espinoza explained.

“We used a program called AutoCAD to design the parabola. We found out that all the incoming light into a parabola reflects into a single point. With a parabola, we had to come up with a way to raise it up.” Three versions of a wooden frame were designed. All three used the same parabola. “We put two metal sheets covered with reflective material. All of the linear sunlight rays reflect into the focus where we placed a big copper rod. We painted it black for it to absorb the most possible heat.”

After some tinkering, the students were successful.

A tasty test helped prove it, Kemnitz said.

“We use it for hot dogs. It’s done remarkably well, it will take six hot dogs from fridge temp to 165 in 10 minutes.”

Students are working on other projects, while getting involved in the community, Kemnitz said.

“I have a team of students who are designing and building solar phone charge stations for the new Stolley Park Community Gardens. We are hoping to finalize them and install them in March, but the solar panels themselves have been made already.”

GIPS Academy of Engineering and Technology

Grand Island Public Schools Academy of Engineering and Technology student Deigo Espinoza carefully inspects a solar panel put together by himself and his Alternative Energy Pathway classmates. 

Next semester Alternative Energy Pathway students are going to do an energy audit on Newell Elementary School, to identify find out how to remedy any energy efficiency weakness, he said.

“We’re going to go through and count the lights and look at their HVAC system. We have lots of really neat tools and stuff we use. Students like Diego will give a report to the principal to show here’s how Newell can save some some energy and be green, but also save some money as well.”

Based on both successes and curiosity, Espinoza, a senior, has thrived in the Alternative Energy Pathway, Kemnitz said. “He’s wicked smart. What’s nice about this class is I get students to ask questions like, ‘Well, what about this in the environment? What about that?’ you know, so I’m not going do a whole lot of overteaching about climate change, and doom and gloom. These students really seek that out themselves and seek to answer this question themselves.”

Espinoza even took it upon himself to write about it.

“I did a 14-page research paper,” he said. “I learned about the contributions that our style of life, like the consumption of meat, what we put in cows and then grow to eat, the amount of space they need, the amount of food and the gases that they put into their environment is incredibly high. This is very common for our culture to just forget where meat comes from. Like, they go to a fast food chain, and they just order a burger or something. And there’s meat, but where does it come from? This class teaches not only energy, but like how to make everything more efficient.”

Espinoza said even without the Alternative Energy Pathway, he’d still be interested in environmental issues, researching online and reading on his own. The pathway, however, helps him channel and focus his interests.

“This class does focus on my interests and what I actually need to look at,” Espinoza said. “This class focuses and makes a path for me to follow.”

He already has plans for his future, which Espinoza said will focus on electrical engineering. “I’ll pursue my bachelor’s first and then go further with a master’s. Then I will find someplace where I’m needed, because in the following years, this is a pathway that it seems to be growing. There’s going to be a lot of demand for electrical engineering and the usage of other sources of energy.”

Having a place to focus their passion and an open forum for questions is central to the program – and being successful in general, Kemnitz said.

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“Questioning comes naturally for students. Questioning comes naturally and discovery comes naturally. We try to take advantage of that.”

jessica.votipka@theindependent.com

GIPS offers ‘pathway’ to a greener world

Growing up in rural Mexico, Diego Espinoza always was aware of his surroundings, often contemplating the effects humans have on the landscapes where they grow up.

“I heard about carbon emissions, how they’re going to affect the environment,” Espinoza said. “I wanted to take care of the world that we live in. I got interested in why these things affect the environment, the environment that we live in, so I did my research about the topic. I figured out what climate change was all about – all the contributors into CO2 emissions.”

Eventually, Espinoza moved to Grand Island, where his curiosity about the environment persisted. He enrolled in Grand Island Public Schools, where he found a place to channel his curiosity: Grand Island Public Schools’ Academy of Engineering and Technology. He gravitated to the academy’s Alternative Energy Pathway.

Espinoza is one of about 20 students in the Alternative Energy Pathway. Alex Kemnitz is the alternative energy and robotics teacher, and indicated that like alternative energy itself, the pathway is constantly growing and evolving.

“We’re still growing, but this is ultimately our second full year of alternative energy,” Kemnitz said. “We’re still really budding in the way other pathways aren’t. We’ve had a lot of great success so far.”

One of those successes is a classroom-made solar concentrator. The large, shiny curved surface is positioned on a wooden frame, with a metal rod positioned in front of the curvature. The result is a contraption that uses a parabola – engineered by students from paper to product – to capture energy from sunlight, Espinoza explained. “We used a program called AutoCAD to design the parabola. We found out that all the incoming light into a parabola reflects into a single point. With a parabola, we had to come up with a way to raise it up.” Three versions of a wooden frame were designed. All three used the same parabola. “We put two metal sheets covered with reflective material. All of the linear sunlight rays reflect into the focus where we placed a big copper rod. We painted it black for it to absorb the most possible heat.”

After some tinkering, the students were successful.

A tasty test helped prove it, Kemnitz said. “We use it for hot dogs. It’s done remarkably well, it will take six hot dogs from fridge temp to 165 in 10 minutes.”

Students are working on other projects, while getting involved in the community, Kemnitz said.

“I have a team of students who are designing and building solar phone charge stations for the new Stolley Park Community Gardens. We are hoping to finalize them and install them in March, but the solar panels themselves have been made already.”

Next semester Alternative Energy Pathway students are going to do an energy audit on Newell Elementary School, to identify find out how to remedy any energy efficiency weakness, he said. “We’re going to go through and count the lights and look at their HVAC system. We have lots of really neat tools and stuff we use. Students like Diego will give a report to the principal to show here’s how Newell can save some some energy and be green, but also save some money as well.”

Based on both successes and curiosity, Espinoza, a senior, has thrived in the Alternative Energy Pathway, Kemnitz said. “He’s wicked smart. What’s nice about this class is I get students to ask questions like, ‘Well, what about this in the environment? What about that?’ you know, so I’m not going do a whole lot of overteaching about climate change, and doom and gloom. These students really seek that out themselves and seek to answer this question themselves.”

Espinoza even took it upon himself to write about it.

“I did a 14-page research paper,” he said. “I learned about the contributions that our style of life, like the consumption of meat, what we put in cows and then grow to eat, the amount of space they need, the amount of food and the gases that they put into their environment is incredibly high. This is very common for our culture to just forget where meat comes from. Like, they go to a fast food chain, and they just order a burger or something. And there’s meat, but where does it come from? This class teaches not only energy, but like how to make everything more efficient.”

Espinoza said even without the Alternative Energy Pathway, he’d still be interested in environmental issues, researching online and reading on his own. The pathway, however, helps him channel and focus his interests.

“This class does focus on my interests and what I actually need to look at,” Espinoza said. “This class focuses and makes a path for me to follow.”

He already has plans for his future, which Espinoza said will focus on electrical engineering. “I’ll pursue my bachelor’s first and then go further with a master’s. Then I will find someplace where I’m needed, because in the following years, this is a pathway that it seems to be growing. There’s going to be a lot of demand for electrical engineering and the usage of other sources of energy.”

Having a place to focus their passion and an open forum for questions is central to the program – and being successful in general, Kemnitz said.

“Questioning comes naturally for students. Questioning comes naturally and discovery comes naturally. We try to take advantage of that.”

Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420.

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Jessica Votipka is the education reporter at the Grand Island Independent. She can be reached at 308-381-5420

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