Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scholar Warrior Citizen Day 3

Today we learned about the energy crisis....high oil costs, pollution, alternative energy. Many of our students were already pretty well informed. Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we already use a lot of hydro, wind & geothermal.

Still, we did our 'warrior' class on possible solutions to the energy problem. We learned how a turbine works, how different sorts of generation turn turbines (windmills can turn one, as do the chutes in a hydro dam; geothermal, nuclear and coal boil water for steam...). Then we broke into groups to think about possible new ways to turn a turbine. Some solutions:

  • Put turbines inside of old tires and roll them down a mountain.
  • Make inmates walk on treadmills (I rather liked this one).
  • Burn trash to boil water for steam (remarkably close to something we're already doing).
  • Well, first you get a million gerbils and a million gerbil wheels....
In the afternoon, we toured a local plant (thanks Solaicx) that manufactures the silicon wafers that go into solar panels. They have a new technology that looks like they can drastically reduce the cost of solar energy (high cost being the major barrier to widely adopted solar right now). We learned how they are made, how they work, and how hard it is to properly mix silicone (melting point 2000 degrees) in a vat made of stainless steel (melting point 1800 degrees).

The kids did us proud and asked a lot of questions. Who knows? Maybe one will grow up thinking about it and be the one who cracks the code...

Thanks for listening.

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