Training for a new generation alternative energy experts is well underway at Roopville Elementary in Carrollton – a school in one of seven school districts served by GYSTC’s West Regional Center.  There, students are learning about the technology that harnesses the sun’s energy in sufficient amounts to power all the energy needs of their classroom.

According to Cathy Fontenot, West GYSTC’s Regional Coordinator, “This is the most exciting and certainly the most advanced STEM experience our Center has undertaken to date.  Through SAC (Solarize A Classroom,) we’ve been able to translate elementary science standards into real world experience.  Our students are hands on operating the equipment that powers the energy needs of the classroom on a daily basis.  They’re tracking the energy consumption used to operate classroom lights, computers, audio/visual tools, laptops and anything else that in the past needed to plug-in in order to power up.”

Victor Rundquist, West Regional Center’s Board Chair and Senior Development Engineer at Southwire Corporation, worked with Cathy Fontenot and other staff for three years to conceptualize the project. A $15,000 Innovative Grant awarded by the GYSTC State Office combined with a $7,500 in-kind contribution from Southwire brought it to fruition.  The resources were used to secure several solar panels anchored to a flatbed trailer situated outside the school and connected to the classroom through extension cords and other apparatus. Each day, students monitor operation of the equipment and track fluctuations in energy used from day to day, day to night and season to season.    Wi-Fi wattage affixed to the panels also tracks energy usage in sunny as well as inclement weather.

According to Betsy Green, Executive Director of State GYSTC, “This is exactly the kind of ambitious learning project we envisioned our Innovative Grant monies would be used for.  We’re gratified for the support of Southwire who has shared their expertise as well as resources to make this possible.  And just imagine: the impetus for SAC started with a small alternative energy exhibit at a West Center Stem Night three years ago.  Working toward bigger and broader goals is what GYSTC is all about.”

Speaking of broadening goals, at West Regional Center, Jennifer Carrol, the STEM Lead Teacher who also runs the Gifted Student Program, is piloting professional development curriculum in her own classroom that will be used to train other teachers on what’s been learned through the current SAC project.  Concurrently, teachers Judy Cox and Gayle Marshall are also writing curricula to address the next phase of SAC’s expansion which will replicate the original experiment, add hydraulics to the trailer and enhance data collection paradigms to engage students on a deeper level.  In the foreseeable future Cathy Fontenot expects the SAC trailer to rotate among other GYSTC schools every four to six weeks.

SAC is undoubtedly the most ambitious project underway at West GYSTC, but it’s just one of dozens of stimulating and fun science-based activities held at this busy center year round.  In June and July West GYSTC held four Discovery Camps that served 193 children who participated in LEGO Robotics, coding and technology, game development and STEM Discovery.

Children in the region are also enjoying a total of 16 past or planned in and out of classroom field trips to places that include the Waring Archaeology Lab, University of West Georgia Innovations Lab, West GYSTC STEM Lab and a tour of the university.

West GYSTC is a welcoming host of seven planned GYSTC STEM Days/Nights at various schools in the region. Coming up on February 20, 2020 the Center will offer another in its series of Coding Boot Camps at Paulding County Airport.  Teachers and administrators are not to be overlooked with seven Professional Development sessions also planned covering a variety of topics including SAC.

As with all nine of its sister GYSTC Regional Centers throughout Georgia, West GYSTC welcomes community involvement in its programs and activities and encourages volunteerism and sponsorship dollars to support critical STEM learning for elementary and middle school students and their teachers. To learn more or discover ways to help, call GYSTC at (470) 578-7592.