A first of its kind pilot program has been underway this year for 35 West Clermont gifted students in grades 10 to 12.
The program was developed by West Clermont teacher Angie Ferguson and Debby Yerkes of the Ohio Energy Project. They presented the idea of a program aimed at getting gifted students involved in energy-related projects and products to the Ohio Department of Development and the ODD agreed to get involved. The ODD has given West Clermont School District a $10,000 grant to test the program with their gifted students.
“Our gifted high school students have had opportunities to explore what is going on in Ohio in terms of energy and alternative energy sources,” said Ferguson. “The idea is that we want the kids to see what Ohio is doing in terms of conserving energy, using alternative energy sources and sustaining energy sources.”
locations around the state to discover how Ohio is actively involved in creating solutions to the energy crisis.
An overnight trip to the Waterloo Coal Mine in Jackson gave students a different view of strip mining.
"The word strip mining had a bad connotation," said Kate Hart. "But that was not the evidence that we found. They are not just striping down the mine and leaving it. They have reclaimed the areas."
The group went to a second coal mine near Ohio University to see a water shed project underway. The students learned that water which filters through a coal mine leaches into the water system carrying sulfuric acid and destroying aquatic life.
"What they had done at this coal mine was put up this system that would neutralize the sulfuric acid," said Hart. "The water was purified by the time it got through the process and you could see the change that took place."
While visiting a lab at Hocking College the students witnessed the extraction of carbon to be used in a fuel cell. The demonstration powered a fan. They also saw the working mechanisms that were used to power a hybrid car.
The trip included a green fuel lab at Ohio University which is experimenting with the use of algae as a source of fuel.
"They talked about how they could grow algae to produce electricity," said Janet Ford.
"A professor taught the kids his theory about growing algae," said Ferguson. "He said that if you had a pond about one quarter the size of Ohio and grew algae in that pond, you could fuel the entire United States on the electricity generated from the algae."
They also learned about the possibilities of using ammonia as an alternative fuel source.
"I was under the impression that energy alternatives had all been done," said Hart. "But really there are huge issues with trying to make these energy alternatives work. They really need people who have an interest in the environment and this is what we need to be doing right now. Our generation needs to be doing energy technology. It is a huge challenge and it has really changed my thinking."
The students offered some words of encouragement and advice regarding the energy crisis and the future.
"Our resources we have now are definitely finite," said Bradley. "There are going to be repercussions for not developing other energy sources."
"People don't have to be actively involved, they don't have to do the research," said Elizabeth Dallman. "They can take part in smaller levels and practice energy conservation in their home. Just take charge and do what you can. If we would all just try a little bit, there are so many of us that we could make a big difference."
"I think part of the problem is that we all thought it really doesn't matter if we turn the lights off when we leave a room," said Janet Ford. "It does make a big difference because it might be a long time before alternative sources become available."
"At this point I think it is good to remember where your children are going to be and where your grandchildren are going to be," said Hart. "Think about the energy crisis in terms of generations not in terms of yourself. We have to start taking steps right now to solve the energy crisis or it will be too late."
The students will get an opportunity to share their experiences with sixth grade science students on March 31. The gifted high school students from Glen Este and Amelia will spend the day teaching the students what they have learned about energy conservation and alternative energy.
"This program has helped students understand what their role could be in resolving the energy crisis," said Ferguson. "This has exposed them to job possibilities in the field of energy and improved their leadership and presentation skills."