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Students in STEAM 2 Course Create Proposals for Building Solar Power Plants

As part of Saint Patrick High School’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) program, students in this summer’s STEAM 2 course focused on developing a case study of solar energy. The students in the second year of the program learned the science – chemistry and physics – behind how a solar panel collects and generates electricity and with their own solar panels, recorded hourly readings for solar energy generated from the Saint Patrick parking lot.

Next, students learned how to design electric circuits, applying Ohm’s and Kirchhoff’s laws to produce electrical voltages and currents within usable ranges, for different devices. For this portion of the class, they were able to brainstorm the factors that would affect the efficiency of generating electric power via solar panels. Students developed a simple mathematical model factoring in a city’s latitude, time of year and time of day to predict how much solar power could be generated from an exact geo-location.

Students learned the basics of programming with JavaScript to automate these routine mathematical procedures enabling them to devote more time to critical thinking and improving their designs. As part of the class requirement, students created a final proposal for building a solar power plant in the destination of their choosing. They had to research how much energy a city consumed and backwards design a plan to fit their need based on a specific solar panel arrangement and the availability of open space in the region. Using the skills learned in the class, students were able to give accurate predictions of power production over a 30-year span factoring in degradation of the panels over time as well as how the climate and seasons affected each city on a yearly basis.

“We are proud of the boys for taking on such a novel task, starting from the smallest scientific conceptions and building up to complex reasoning,” said math teacher Eric Fleming, “They learned how to program in both Excel and with JavaScript, and were able to adapt our experiment from the parking lot and simulate it as if they were at different cities around the world. Through their final proposals, they also refined their presentation and communication skills which will help them become effective leaders of the future.”

The STEAM program at Saint Patrick High School strives to help students think deeply and be prepared to transform into future innovators, educators, researchers and leaders who can solve challenges our world faces today and in the future. There are currently 60 students enrolled in the program to begin the 2019-2020 school year. To learn more, please visit www.stpatrick.org/academics/steam.

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