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Windom, W-WG join renewable energy efforts


WINDOM -- Students at Windom Area High School and Westbrook-Walnut Grove Secondary School are saying YES!

YES!, of course, stands for Youth Energy Summit, an initiative that involves 22 teams of students in southwest and west-central Minnesota that are developing projects to increase energy efficiency and promote renewable energy in their schools.

YES! uses hands-on, experiential learning and energy action projects to address energy opportunities and issues in rural Minnesota communities. 

 At WAHS, it was two seniors, Mason Voehl and Mike Farrell, who got the school involved in YES!

"They have to complete a senior project in their senior year, and they brought me on board as their adviser," explained chemistry and physics teacher Jonathan Smith. "The students are still kind of developing what the project is going to be, but their goal is to power the greenhouse here on campus with renewable energy."

The 10 high schoolers involved hope to create a vertical wind turbine -- a smaller, less expensive version of those posted along Interstate 90 -- to generate power.

The program includes some available grant funding for the students' efforts, but the rest they must raise on their own.

In Westbrook, students are focusing more on education.

"They are making little moveable pods of different renewable energy sources to bring to surrounding elementary schools. It will be everything from comparing efficiency of regular light bulbs to fluorescent light bulbs to showing how much waste goes into landfills in a regular school day," said science teacher Pat Merrick. "There will be elementary programs set that schools can use to show energy conservation or alternative energy sources."

Merrick is leading the group of 14 eighth- through 12th-graders along with other teachers, Doug Lee, Josh Barron and Angie Larson.

Team projects will be judged in April with outstanding projects receiving awards.

In October, participants visited the Southwest Minnesota Career Expo, which featured more than 20 energy-related exhibitors. Teams also took part in a step-by-step action-planning process and team-building activities.

 YES! 2009-2010 is administered by the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) and implemented through partnerships with Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and Prairie Ecology Bus Center and is funded in part by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace: An Alliance for Talent Development. 

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