Home News Local news Gifft Hill School Science Students Get Set for Solar Sprint

Gifft Hill School Science Students Get Set for Solar Sprint

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Feb. 1, 2008 — Nearly all of the 10 students in Kent Wessinger's seventh-grade science class at Gifft Hill School on St. John were excited about the chance to build a solar car to be entered in the V.I. Energy Office's annual Solar Sprint competition.
"If you want to be competitive, you have to be really good," said Don Buchanan, Energy Office spokesman, as he made his presentation Friday.
About 15 schools from St. Croix, 10 from St. Thomas and two from St. John send students to the competition, set for April 4 on St. Croix.
Each school gets three solar car kits. The students must use the motor and the solar panel that comes with the kit, but could make other modifications to make their car go faster, Buchanan said. The school gets to send two students per car, which makes for stiff competition in the class to see who gets to go to St. Croix for the competition.
After one student suggested Wessinger pull the names out of the hat, the teacher told them that was not the way of the world, and they would have to compete for the spots with their cars.
Buchanan's visit prompted a discussion on why residents need to be more energy conscious.
Wessinger told the students the electric bill runs $185 a month on his "small, little bitty" house, which has four fans, a small water heater and not many lights.
"The other house down the road runs their air conditioning — their bill is $1,600 a month," he said.
Earlier Buchanan pointed out the high cost of buying electricity from WAPA. He also recommended solar and wind energy because of issues like global warming and dependence on oil from politically unfriendly locations such as Iraq and Venezuela.
"We're not good friends with Venezuela," he said. "They could just shut off the switch."
Buchanan also pointed out that leaving appliances on but not operating with the "little green lights" glowing can add $20 a month to electric bills.
The students also discussed the pluses of using solar and wind on a boat. When a student said he'd prefer to run a generator rather than have wind and solar power, Wessinger pointed out the pitfalls of this idea on long trips.
"There are no gas stations on the way to Spain," he said.
Buchanan's visit was timely because the students were studying technology, Wessinger said. Despite technological advances, St. John is still not at the technological level of many other places, he said. For example, he said, high-speed Internet service is not yet available at his house in Fish Bay.
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