Park Forest MS Feature

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Park Forest Middle School (PA) is now able to power computers using wind turbine and solar panel power.


Portions reposted from WJAL (

TSA students at Park Forest Middle School in State College, Pennsylvania have built and installed a wind turbine and solar panel to power up three computers. More than just the energy, the project has been a great learning experience. Students say they'd rather do these types of projects than sit behind a desk.

Clean energy from the roof, powers three computers inside Park Forest Middle. A wind turbine and a solar panel generate power that charges these batteries. Currently, computers are plugged into the batteries.

"You're not using electricity that doesn't need to be used, you're using energy that you helped collect," Griffin Thompson, a seventh grader at Park Forest Middle School said.

Students like Griffin made the turbine using what they learned in classes. He likes green technology because it saves electricity and money. These types of projects also keep him busy. "It's not like you sit at a desk," he said, "you're doing it-- what you do matters to the whole project."

The project started through a grant from Dominion Power more than two years ago.  When the school learned of the grant opportunity, they assembled a STEM interdisciplinary committee so that teachers from Science, Technology Mathematics and Engineering could collaborate on a worthy grant.  Teachers spent time in each other’s classrooms to learn about different hands-on activities that could encompass all STEM disciplines.  

The wind turbine idea originated when TSA advisor, Mr. Bill Hughes, participated in a science class and laterobserved students working on designs for turbine blades in geometry class.  “They were cutting up plastic tubes and attaching them to old CDs to see what shapes are most efficient.  They were measuring the amount of electricity the CD motor (when spun becomes a generator) generated based on the blade size, type, shape and number of blades,” he said.  Mr. Hughes had the idea that this could be applied to creating a wind turbine that would actually generate energy.  Penn State University provided the school a kit through the “Wind Powering America” program and gave Park Forest the opportunity to access the wind tunnel on PSU’s campus for testing.  The turbine blades are made in the wood lab, supervised by Mr. Hughes.  School officials continue to work with Penn State University to get supplies.  

"We want students to get hands on building and constructing things that they can see the results for-- they can see the electricity coming in," said Mr. Hughes.

Going forward, students will continue to do experiments in hopes of powering more batteries and maybe more computers.

To monitor the power usage, they plan to connect computers to a kilowatt meters to track the usage on a day to day basis.  “We will be able to work backward to determine the amount of electricity being saved.  Eventually censors will be connected to automatically log the amount of power being used.

“It is projects like these that really enable teachers to teach the concepts of STEM,” Mr. Hughes said.