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High school science students explore energy

Huntingtown High Energy Expo

Huntingtown High School junior Taylor McNeil demonstrates wind power with a replica turbine at the school's annual energy expo.

Huntingtown, MD - The Fourth annual Huntingtown High School (HHS) Energy Expo gave science students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned this school year about the complex and fascinating sources of energy. The expo was held Tuesday, Feb. 13 in the HHS Cafeteria.

“I have very capable honors students,” explained HHS science teacher Jamie Rowder, who added she is trying to expand the event. Students who worked on projects are either taking environmental science or advanced placement science. Parents, teachers, siblings, public officials attended expo. “I’m hoping they will see that we don’t need to continue our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The fossil fuels—coal, oil, natural gas—were included in the presentations. Rowder admitted there is some ambiguity about whether uranium is also a fossil fuel (like coal, it is mined) or a potentially renewable energy source. Nuclear energy was part of the discussion along with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, biomass energy, geothermal energy, wind, hydroelectric, solar, hydrogen, tidal, and ocean thermal.

Juniors Morgan Robert, Karissa Brown, Hannah Nimez, Abby Strauss and Sydney Koteff had a project on display--a replica model of a building with a green roof. Green roofs include several natural components, such as rocks, moss, grass, trees and flower beds. Robert says she has been on a green roof, adding that among the advantages—“it helps by replacing the green space that is lost” when the structure is built. It also helps save money on heating and cooling costs, she added. In Calvert County, the College of Southern Maryland Prince Frederick campus and Town of North Beach have green buildings. The new Northern High School will also have a green building. The four LEED rating levels are certified, silver, gold and platinum.

According to HHS junior Emily Buckalew, biomass (biological material) has been the subject of much study. The commonly used component ethanol is a biomass product. Buckalew pointed out that the positive aspects of biomass include its renewability, its abundance, the fact that it is inexpensive, it reduces the amount of waste in landfills and its reduction of carbon emissions. On the negative side, biomass increases methane gases, does cause pollution, requires a lot of space and is expensive in some areas.

With the help of a small replica of a wind turbine—and a blow-dryer—junior Taylor McNeil demonstrated wind power. McNeil explained the wind turbine parts—including the prop, which rotates when the wind blows—generates electricity as the prop turns, prompting the main shaft to spin a generator. McNeil said wind energy is expected to become more common by 2020. A challenge is “to find remote locations to put them so they don’t bother people.” She explained turbines are noisy and cause hearing problems. They also kill birds. 

As she always does, Rowder invited energy experts to be part of the expo. Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) manager of the distributed energy resources program, Lezael Rori, was on hand to explain the co-op’s effect to aid customers who are reducing their dependence on the grid by the incorporation of solar energy at their homes. Rori said over 5,000 SMECO customers are now using solar. SMECO helps customers go through the conversion application process. She also passed out copies of a small book entitled “How to Control Your Electric Bill-A Self-help guide.” More information on SMECO services to customers who want to reduce energy costs is available at www.smeco.coop.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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