Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lunch with the ETCA Seniors!

Well, It was a very emotional lunch today at the Cafe on the Square! The kids brought me some beautiful flowers and a touching card! Since their graduation ceremonies are at the exact same time, I have chosen to not attend either. It just wouldn't be fair, you know? So, we scheduled a a graduation gift to the seniors who "STUCK IT OUT"! I think it's safe to say that they are glad they did stick it out.
Looking was the first day of these guys' sophomore year. They didn't know me, I didn't know them. I had a plan, and they had no idea what that had signed up to be a part of! Mat Russell introduced himself using a British accent (which I believed for all of 1 minute!). Tra had massive amounts of hair....Noah's ponytail has only gotten longer, JD looks like he's older than 12 now, and all my girls have, shall I say, blossomed and have become quite mature young ladies! Jason Davis has stayed true to his dream of being a chef...but an energy-efficient one! I had to force Pepe to stay in the Senior Project class this year (I was competing against my chances were slim), but he is really glad he stayed! We had a great phone conversation today, since he could not make the lunch.
As I watch my first group of students move on to the next phase of their lives, I have to admit it is bittersweet. I want the best for them, but they have been so valuable to the Academy and its many successes, I hate to see them go. I did give a bit of advice, unsolicited, mind you!
1. If you give 100% at anything you do, you will have few regrets.
2. No babies until AFTER college!
3. Just because you are not in my class anymore, doesn't mean that I'm not watching!
4. I am always here for matter what.
We have developed a little family, and it was so great to see to rival counties have such a good relationship with each other!
Good luck and best wishes to all my "kids" as they move on to the next phase of life...which I reminded them was the most important in determining the rest of their lives!

Here's just how much JD's matured since the beginning days of the Academy. Remember the first awareness event ever? Compact Flourescent Bulb awareness at ball games!! Those were the days! Now we're making Biodiesel, solar panels, doing wind studies and so much more!!

Congratulations to all my seniors! Love you guys!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Our First 40-gallon Batch of Biodiesel Was.....

After allowing the first batch to settle over the weekend, yesterday we performed the first of many recommended tests....the percentage test. If the % of glycerin fallout is between 15 and 20, then your biodiesel is considered to be "good" and ready to be washed. Our percentage (by volume) was 15.7%. So, yesterday we began the first wash process, which is simply misting in water and allowing it to separate from the oil, then removing the water. Once the water is removed, the pH is tested. We have to keep washing until the pH is 7 (neutral). After the 2nd wash, our water pH is at 8. We washed again today, and the water will settle overnight. Can't wait to see what the water looks like tomorrow! My guess is that it will take a couple more washes.

In the picture slideshow, you will see the students wearing safety equipment because we are working with chemicals that do not need to be directly inhaled or be in contact with the skin. There are very sensitive chemical titrations performed to determine how much lye to add to the WVO (Waste Vegetable Oil). You will see the students performing these tests. We tested, then re-tested...just to be sure. I could write and write and write about our experiences, but in this case I believe the pictures in the slideshow do speak volumes!

Please remember to click on the slideshow if you want to see the captions that I have taken the time to add to most pictures! Thanks to Doug Keaton with the NEED Project for visiting and helping us with our first big batch!! Now we just need to finish washing....then dry. Then test. But, there is light at the end of this tunnel!!!! Perfect timing as the school year ends on Friday!

State NEED Youth Award Ceremony in Frankfort, KY

This year's NEED Youth Award Ceremony was quite different than last year. Due to the large number of schools participating, I was only able to take 6 students. So, we did the democratic thing...we voted.

Here, I am pictured with Noah Schwika, Candace Mullins, Travone Taylor, Emily Holsinger, Matthew Russell, and James David Coomer. These were the student represenatives for the Energy Technology Career Academy.

Unlike last year, we did not win the state award. Were we disappointed? Yes. However, the maturity of the students was shocking. I took the opportunity to talk to the students about life...we don't always win! All that matters is that we gave it all we had. Life isn't fair. (How many times has my mother said that to me!??! ) We felt like our projects were "outstanding", and the judges did too! Just not as outstanding as another school. Everyone, in my opinion, at the ceremony did great work toward a great sustainability.

We had "5 very strong projects" stated the judges. I have the judges' review comments, but did not really understand all of them. I think our projects were very technical and probably did not have enough of the "Kids Teaching Kids" theme. As the students and I discussed the ceremony outcomes, I think Mat Russell said it best..."Well, Mrs. Spoon, we didn't do it for a trophy." He's exactly right. Looking back, I wouldn't have taken on less projects and I would not have reduced the technical nature of our projects and curicculum. We are a technology-driven academy. Maybe we didn't reach down into the lower grades and educate those students enough, but the education that my ETCA students received is immeasurable. That was my goal!

Thank you to Karen Reagor and Doug Keaton from the NEED staff for all your positive comments and encouragement!

Please enjoy the brief slideshow of our trip to Frankfort!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The NEED Youth Award Submission and Uganda Light Plant Update

Hello Everyone! I have several updates since my last post! I will try to cover a couple tonight and the rest later in the week. My computer has some battery/charger problems and I need to get it to the IT department at LWC...but I can't afford to be without it!

NEED Youth Award Submission 2011
It has been very busy time for the Academy! Spring Break was the week before the NEED Youth Award deadline, so we lost a whole week to work on the submission! We, once again, were racing against the clock to get our NEED Youth Award submission completed and in the mail by April 14th at 3:45!!! I took the Adair Seniors over to Russell County High School on Thursday the 14th to finish the final compilation together, as an Academy! It was a great day! Stressful, but great!
I received an email informing me that the Academy was chosen to be one of the few high schools to have a display table at the NEED State Ceremony! So proud of our kids!! We submitted 5 separate goals 1)The Uganda Project 2) The Arnold House Project 3) A Wind Study in Kentucky 4) Solar Data Analyzation and 5) Biodiesel. Can't wait to take 6 students to Frankfort on May 18th! Wish I could take all my seniors and juniors, but this year the space is limited; so, voting will determine who will go. Democracy at work!

The Uganda Light Plant Construction Continues
Once again, Spring Break put a damper on the progress of this project at RCHS. And, WOW, the Senior schedule is crazy this time of year! As of today, I only have 9 days with my RCHS students!!!!!! We have a lot to do on the light plant, so I will probably have to do the battery discharging study with the ACHS students. The Anemometer is ready for a new home....the first 40-gallon batch of biodiesel is waiting to be processed....the Arnold House Project needs loose ends tied up and I would love to take a quick day-trip to Danville before the end of the year. Anyway, back to the light plant!! Below, JD Coomer, an ACHS Senior, gives a "Thumbs-UP" to the light a dark RCHS library!!

I have had so many opportunities to share my engineering background with the Seniors on this portion of the project. We really discussed error-proofing and its importance in any assembly operation. We talked about quality assurance, too. The students themselves did all the machining and construction of the plant itself, with the help of Lake Cumberland Technology Center's tools and equipment! Thank you LCTC! Emily Holsinger and Tra Taylor have been leading the Operations Manual portion of the project. Of course, it's hard to develop instructions using mostly pictures, until the plant itself is completed! Please enjoy the slideshow of pictures below and remember, you can click the slideshow to open Picasa and view the captions that I have added to most pictures!
Good Night....