By Mike Marsee
Why should you recycle? Because your cell phone is about to die.
Students in the energy management program at the Hardin County schools’ Early College and Career Center offered that incentive with their service project earlier this school year. And in so doing, they just might have stumbled onto an idea that will make them some money.
Their work was on display last week at the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools and Kentucky National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project Youth Summit and Awards Luncheon at Frankfort Convention Center.
The annual event recognizes and showcases the best projects that promote school and community health and environmental sustainability.
About 200 students attended the event, and students from about 10 schools displayed their projects or findings at tables around the edge of the arena floor.
The Early College and Career Center students received the award for the most outstanding senior level project for their device, a charging station that is activated by recycling an empty beverage container.
“We all came together as a class and discussed ideas, and we came up with a way to recycle and charge a phone at the same time,” junior Gabe Oelschlager said. “We all just kind of threw together ideas and came up with this. Everybody in the class had input.”
Inserting a plastic bottle into the station activates a motion sensor that provides 15 minutes of charging time on one of the 32 USB outlets.
The station plugs into a wall outlet, but students said the wattage it uses for charging devices and running its green LED lights is well below what would be used if the same number of devices was plugged in separately.
The students set up their device at the school and found that it had a role in changing student behavior. At first their fellow students were willing to recycle in exchange for some charge time, but soon they were recycling even when they didn’t want to charge a device.
Media coverage of the project has gone around the world. Instructor Joe Stuecker and his students have been contacted by people interested in marketing their idea on a large scale, including a bottled water company in Poland that would like to place a charging station next to its vending machines.
“What started as a neat little project is hopefully going to turn into a business for these students,” Stuecker said. “This was literally, ‘Let’s build a cool project.’ That’s all it was. We had no ideas of it being successful to this extent.”
Oelschlager said he’s surprised that so many people have heard of their work.
“It’s just a class project. I don’t think any of us realized it could get that far,” he said. “We thought we were going to be locally famous in our classroom.”
KENTUCKY GREEN AND HEALTHY SCHOOLS AWARDS
(public school winners)
Model Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools
- Kit Carson Elementary School (Madison County)
- Morton Middle School (Fayette County)
- Pikeville High School (Pikeville Independent)
- West Hardin Middle School (Hardin County)
School in Progress
- Lloyd Memorial High School (Erlanger-Elsmere Independent)
Teacher of the Year
- Carla Trisko, Morton Middle School (Fayette County)
KENTUCKY NEED PROJECT WINNERS
(public school winners)
Elementary Level Rookie Project of the Year
- Julius Marks Elementary School (Fayette County)
Junior Level Rookie Project of the Year
- Anchorage Independent School
Most Outstanding Junior Level Project
- Ockerman Middle School (Boone County)
Senior Level Rookie Project of the Year
- Central Hardin High School (Hardin County)
Most Outstanding Senior Level Project
- Early College and Career Center (Hardin County)