Even though the weather wasn’t cooperating, Yelm High School students figured out a way to collect data from their temporary wind farm Wednesday morning.
It involved agriculture and natural resources teacher Matt Mounts standing on a ladder and aiming a leaf blower at the blades of the 10-foot-tall turbines. After only a few minutes, the students measured an output of 4 volts.
“That’s pretty good for a turbine this size,” said Yelm High senior Danika Vleugel, 17.
The 1,200-student school is one of the first in the state to offer a comprehensive course on renewable energy, according to Mounts.
“Gov. (Jay) Inslee actually came out and checked this out,” he said.
The semester-long class, which is called Green Technology, gives students a chance to produce energy with alternative methods such as solar panels, wind turbines and biodiesel.
Each turbine and solar panel kit cost about $11,000, according to Teri Pablo, director of Career and Technical Education for Yelm Community Schools. Altogether, the district paid about $88,000 for the equipment and curriculum.
“We had a grant that helped fund it,” she said.
The first part of the class covered a unit on electrical safety and basic wiring. Students also researched alternative-energy options.
“A lot of countries are already relying on renewable energy — wind, solar, wave power,” Vleugel said.
Because the class has been so popular, Mounts plans to expand it and offer it all school year, beginning this fall. In addition, district officials are hoping to partner with Shoreline Community College so that students can earn credits toward its renewable energy certification program, he said.
“It’s these students who are really paving the way,” Pablo said. “They are really making the industry grow for themselves.”
Mounts described the course as “extremely student-driven.” He said it’s been fun to teach it, and he’s learning a lot from the program too.
“We are constantly adapting lessons to incorporate new techniques and more effective ways to understand and implement concepts,” Mounts said. “It is developing as it should be with an ever-changing technology like this.”
Yelm High senior Robert Dennis, 17, ended up in the class after a different one fell through.
At first, he said he didn’t think he’d like it. But it turned out to be hands-on, interesting and detail-orientated. The class also is designed to make students work together to solve problems, so there’s been a leadership aspect too, Dennis said.
“This will hands-down always be my favorite class,” he said.
Dennis said he feels privileged that the class is offered at his school. It’s also given him inspiration for life after high school.
“I’m going to make this a career,” Dennis said. “It’s different. It’s new. The jobs in the industry are new and pretty high-paying.”
Vleugel said she’s interested in pursuing a career in alternative energy, too.
“It’s helping build a better tomorrow,” she said.