Students present “throwing sunshade” projects to improve Virginia communities


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Richmond, Virginia, Dec. 12, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Secure Solar Futures, a solar developer serving schools, hospitals and businesses, hosted the 2nd Annual Throwing Solar Shade® Program Closing Event on December 6, 2022 at the Science Virginia Museum. At the event, more than eighty students from five school departments across Virginia gave final presentations on their research on solar energy, heat islands, and related topics they explored during the fall semester.

The students, mostly high school juniors and seniors, came from three different regions of Virginia. Richmond was represented by a public school, the Open High School, and an independent school, the Collegiate School. Students from the Augusta County Schools and the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School came from the Shenandoah Valley. Eventually, students from public schools in Lee County and Wise County came from the coal region of southwestern Virginia.

“By conducting citizen science as part of our broader work on urban heat islands, students will gain hands-on experiences that will inspire further studies and potential careers in science and technology,” said SMV Chief Scientist Dr. Jeremy Hoffman, who helped develop Sunscreen Throwing Curriculum. “The program brings students together across the urban-rural divide and also creates connections that strengthen Virginia communities.”

Incorporating both research and implementation, Throwing Solar Shade builds on Hoffman’s work to investigate and mitigate the urban heat island effect in the city of Richmond, dubbed the Throwing Shade RVA.

In partnership with Hoffman, and to meet the demand for hands-on STEM curricula that bring solar power into the classroom, Secure Solar Futures created the Throwing Solar Shade Program in 2019.

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Three schools participated in the pilot program: Open High School in Richmond and two schools in Augusta County, Fort Defiance High School and Riverheads High School. After completing the pilot, four students were invited to present their projects at the 2020 Solar Decathlon, sponsored each year by the US Department of Energy. Student projects have focused on converting poultry houses to solar power, reducing heat islands by painting parking lots white and reducing the efficiency of solar power systems. Researchers from the VCU Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC) found that students who participated in the program significantly improved their STEM skills, professional awareness and learning abilities. The VCU MERC researchers will publish their results for this year’s program in early 2023.

“The program offers students a unique opportunity to conduct original research on solar energy and the environment, under the direction of a PhD climate scientist, in a hands-on initiative to lower surface temperatures in local communities,” said Dr. Anthony Smith, President and Founder of Secure Solar Futures. “The research is impressive, but what really sets this program apart is how much students learn about teamwork, how to think creatively, communicate, improve their academic skills, and appreciate how they can make a difference through research and implementation.”

At the event on December 6, 2022 at the Science Museum, each group of students presented a poster presenting their research methods, results and conclusions. An oral presentation was then given by a selected group from each class that had completed the program.

Six student groups from the Collegiate School presented research on topics including reducing the carbon footprint of sports teams through solar powered vehicles and reusable water bottles. Students from the City of Richmond Open High presented how “green” roofs with vegetation combined with solar panels can reduce roof temperatures, as well as ways to install solar panels as part of school building renovations and how these panels can be placed for maximum energy production. Wise County students captured the audience’s interest with a well-documented demonstration of how to combine leaf blower technology with sophisticated computer programming to increase solar panel efficiency with environmentally friendly methods for regularly cleaning solar panels.

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Not only did the students learn valuable content knowledge and research skills, but they were also motivated to become agents of change in their schools and communities. Going forward, students plan to share their research during student-faculty lunch-and-learn meetings on their campus, as well as during formal presentations to their student governments, athletic departments, principals, superintendents, and school boards. Secure Solar Futures looks forward to supporting these students in their efforts to turn their research into reality.

“I am pleased that this program continues to grow. It has become this incredible opportunity,” said Dr. Jeremy Hoffman during the event. “I enjoyed seeing the students interact with each other and continue to learn about environmental issues that may spark their interest in future STEM careers.”

A variety of organizations provided funding and other support to create the Throwing Solar Shade program. The National Educational Energy Development Program (NEED) provided lesson plans, experimental equipment and teacher training. Other partners included the Science Museum of Virginia, the Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium, the VCU School of Education, the Oak Hill Fund, the Rapha Foundation, and Clean Virginia.

About safe solar future

As a market and policy leader, Secure Solar Futures builds, owns, manages and funds affordable Resilient Solar Solutions® for hospitals, schools and businesses. The company combines leading-edge solar technology with an innovative business model to make commercial-scale solar power easily affordable in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions and to help customers realize the economic, environmental and community benefits of solar power. In 2017, Secure Solar Futures became a Certified B Corporation®. Find the company online at https://www.securesolarfutures.com.

  • Wise County HS students

  • Open HS students

Erik Curren
Secure Solar Futures
(540) 466-6128
[email protected]

Source: Secure Solar Futures

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