Bright ideas win praise and scholarships for Ceres High manufacturing students

04/25/2014 7:04 PM

04/25/2014 9:49 PM

Ceres High School teams placed second and fifth in a green energy competition judged on the state Capitol steps Friday.

Their “A Bright Way to Switch” project earned $800 each in scholarship money for seniors André Torres, Amber Rose, Karelly Barajas and Ethan Campbell. The team estimated that its push to help households switch to high-efficiency LED light bulbs will shave $193,380 off residents’ energy bills over the next 22 years.

The teens solicited donations to buy 750 light-emitting diode bulbs, then offered them to the community at cost or for $1 plus an old fluorescent bulb in trade. To illustrate their project, they hung the old fluorescent bulbs on a 12.5-foot tree sculpture made of repurposed rebar and a donated metal pole.

The scholarships will help pay for a variety of educational options. Rose plans to attend the nursing program at California State University, Stanislaus. Barajas is heading to University of California, Merced, with a focus on biology. Campbell plans to study mechanical engineering at Modesto Junior College. Torres is joining the Navy and plans to study mechanical engineering.

A second project, “Tree of Light,” was ranked an unawarded fifth place out of dozens of presentations by high schoolers in the sixth annual Youth Energy Summit. Seniors José Nuñez, Sarah Connors and Anthony Vasquez collaborated on funding and creating a cut metal palm tree. The life-size tree is topped with tiny solar panels powering 16 high-intensity LED pin lights, like star lights, Nuñez said.

Working on attaching the solar panels and wiring Wednesday, Nuñez said the plan was to offer the tree as free lighting for a park or bike trail in the city.

“The idea is to get a little bit off the grid, that’s just saving taxpayer dollars,” he said. The concept, however, could be used in backyards or business lighting accents, as well.

Both projects had to have an artistic theme, a community focus and harness green energy to compete in the summit, held by Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Lodi Electric Utility, Roseville Electric and the LegiSchool Project at California State University, Sacramento. The Turlock Irrigation District sponsored the Ceres High teams.

The teens are in the third class of the CHS Manufacturing and Green Energy Academy, a California Partnership Academy that folds history, English and science courses in with vocational arts. Internships in local businesses, mentors and field trips to area colleges are all in the mix.

As a cross-course example, Campbell, president of the academy club this year, cited a project on how engines evolved over time and figured in history. “I love mechanics, working with my hands,” he said. “It’s way better than sitting at a desk.”

The burly senior said the academy changed his life. After poor grades during his freshman year kept him out of sports, he tried a vocational focus. “It changed my idea of school,” he said.

Donated metal for the projects came from L&W Metals Manufacturing LLC in Ceres. President Joseph Dick said he knows budget cuts hit the academy’s ability to buy materials.

“I think it’s great what Ceres High Academy Program is doing for the kids. The students start with raw material and fabricate a functioning work of art,” Dick said by email Friday. “We just helped them out.”

The energy-saving bulbs came from Light Bulbs Plus in Rancho Cordova. “I feel that seeing our youth of today taking an active role in communicating to the public what the benefits and savings are to switch to LED light bulbs is fantastic,” said proprietor Karin Magnes.

Teacher Chris Van Meter and the students spent much of their spring break on the projects. While these teams worked on competition pieces, other students fabricated boats from expandable foam.

The academy’s annual regatta will be coming soon.

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