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Opening the skies for students

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Sequim High School students are learning that going "green" has its advantages.

Students in Bill Seabolt's engineering technology class received three solar panels to learn about solar energy and explore careers in alternative energy.

"I think the biggest advantage is exposing students to what's new and a growing industry," said Stuart Marcy, director of career and technical education.

"Sunny Sequim should be a prime candidate for (solar panel production) especially with the government putting forth so many tax breaks."

Two of the three panels are portable and students can work on and investigate the modules by taking apart and reassembling the units.

Seabolt said the project teaches students practical math and science along with basic household wiring they can use in everyday life.

"(It's) important integrating core academics into our career and technical classes," Marcy said.
"Here's the 'science' behind a solar panel rather than just here's 'how to hook up a solar panel.'"
Seabolt is planning a practical use for the portable panels such as connecting them to a fountain in the school's garden area.

Practical application
The third solar panel is industrial-sized and will be placed on H-building later this month.

"When we're not using the solar panel in the summer, the (Public Utilities District) will use it and make the district money," Marcy said. 

Grant money that paid for the panels wasn't as much as expected so they bought one roof-unit observation station.

"I want it to be as close to what's going on in the real world rather than have the whole class on cheaper materials," Marcy said.

Students cannot access the roof to observe the unit up close, so the contractor will create a way for them to observe the solar panel from any computer in the school.

Ongoing education
This is the third year for Seabolt's engineering technology course to be offered to all high schoolers.

Through the year, students learn about diesel power, refrigeration, pneumatics and even receive first aid certification.

His goal is to pique students' interests in different areas so they can pursue careers in a variety of mechanical and electrical industries.

"This opens the field and lets them know there's more out there," Seabolt said.

He intends to instruct students on hydrogen, wind and solar power.

"In this area, I think solar is the way to go. I'd like to see solar on all of the roofs here," Seabolt said. 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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