Explore Magazine Volume 2 Issue 1


Students Bring Energy To Solar Project

An unusual team of scientists working with University of Florida energy specialist Roy Johannesen is making great strides, studying and recording data on solar energy techniques and scrutinizing photovoltaic panels and experimental desiccant air conditioning systems.

Who knows what the team might accomplish by the time its members reach ninth grade?

The Florida Energy Extension Service, a part of UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has teamed up with Ferry Pass Middle School in Pensacola and Gulf Power Corp. to install a state-of-the-art solar energy laboratory in the school.

Running the lab are seventh- and eighth-grade science students who are also part of a novel 4-H club called SolMates. The project, called Solar for Schools, is the first of its kind in the country.

``In eight years, these middle school students will be coming out of college and hopefully will support solar energy, if not become involved in solar science themselves,'' said Johannesen, a mechanical engineer and a member of UF's Energy Extension Service.

The students started out learning about passive solar techniques such as painting the science wing white, which showed that light colors reflect rather than absorb heat. They also planted trees to provide shade.

Then they provided solar lighting for the track and put together a solar greenhouse with an aquaculture station. Next, they added photovoltaic panels to power air conditioning for modular units. And finally, they studied a solar desiccant air conditioning system, which was designed for the science wing. The unit is experimental and the only one of its kind in the world, Johannesen said.

Cindy Spence

photo by Thomas Wright

Solar energy specialist Roy Johannesen supervises Alanna Sherrow and Joshua Gideons, both 13, as they examine plants that are grown year-round by warming the soil with solar energy.