PFAFFTOWN — Teacher Ed Thutt is hoping to make Reagan High School a bit brighter with the addition of a new solar-powered charging tower.
The 10-foot-tall tower — which was erected Friday in the courtyard outside the cafeteria — is capable of charging up to 14 cellphones, laptops or other devices at any given time.
“It’s a self-sufficient charging station powered by the sun,” said Thutt, who spearheaded the project after winning a grant. “The goal is really to bring kids out here and teach them more about photovoltaic solar panels and alternative energy sources.”
The solar-powered tower looks like something from the future with its block base containing a battery that is charged by the photovoltaic solar panel overhead.
The tower, which is the first of its kind in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system, has an attached waist-high table with 10 USB ports and four standard outlets.
“Students will be able to charge their devices when they’re eating lunch or waiting for the bus,” said Thutt, who teaches three Earth and Environmental Science classes. “Even after the sun goes down, it’ll still have juice in it.”
Bolted into the cement and equipped with night lights, the tower is durable and built to withstand severe weather.
Freshman David Rojas, a student in Thutt’s Earth and Environmental class, said he thought the tower was a great addition to campus.
“At the end of the day my phone’s always dying, so this is great,” he said. “I think a lot of students will use it.”
But Thutt said the tower is more than just a convenient way to charge students’ devices. While functional, it will also serve as a good hands-on teaching opportunity.
As North Carolina continues to become a leader in solar energy production, Thutt and other teachers at Reagan can use the tower to teach students about alternative energy sources and, specifically, how photovoltaic solar panels work, he said.
“It’s so much better to be able to show kids ‘This is what it looks like’ instead of watching a video or looking at a textbook,” Thutt said. “Maybe a kid will walk by and think ‘I could do that’ and start a renewable energy business one day.”
Last fall, Thutt was awarded the Bright Ideas grant by Energy United, which funds innovative, classroom-based projects that expand learning opportunities for K-12 students.
“We’re very excited about this outside-the-box thinking and proud of Mr. Thutt for making this happen,” Principal Brad Royal said. “It’s a cool, hands-on learning opportunity for our students.”
Thutt said he came up with the idea for the tower while at a professional development conference that focused on renewable and alternative energy sources, like wind, water and solar.
Unlike fossil fuels, solar power emits no carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making it a more environmentally friendly choice.
“We need to take better care of the Earth,” said sophomore Sayge Holden-Bache, a student of Thutt’s. “This is cool and different and very good for the environment.”
Money from the grant, along with a substantial donation from Allegacy Federal Credit Union, covered the tower’s $4,800 price tag.
The tower was custom-built by a company in Florida and delivered last week.
“I kind of have a dream it’ll be really successful and we’ll be able to get other sponsors on board,” Thutt said. “I’d love to see two or three more around campus, maybe at the baseball stadium or in front of the school.”
Thutt said he hopes to see more of the solar-paneled towers sprout up at other schools in the district, as well.
The towers are easy to maintain, relatively low-cost and need only unobstructed access to the sun for most of the year to operate, he said.
“There are dozens of schools around the county this could spread to,” Thutt said. “I’d love other science teachers to get jealous about it and do it in their own schools. There are a lot of possibilities.”
VERSE: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD” Psalm 150
QUOTE: “A person who loves his job, will never work a day in his life.”
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