University High School students will monitor their school’s energy input and output using a state-of-the-art solar panel system beginning this fall.

The project is coordinated by Dr. Jeffrey Carver, assistant science education professor in the West Virginia University College of Human Resources and Education. He was instrumental in obtaining a $40,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, which is a sub-award from funds received by Marshall University’s Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences.

The grant was also matched by $5,000 from Monongalia County Schools and $5,000 from the West Virginia Department of Energy. All funds will go directly to UHS to build and execute the solar panel system, where Carver is collaborating with principal Shari Bouis, assistant principal Pete Cheesebrough, and science teachers Celina Basant, Geoff Ballard and Keshia LaVergne.

To panel system will be constructed by solar installer Matt Sherrard of Power In My Backyard throughout the summer. It’s a six-kilowatt system and features real-time and cumulative power production monitoring via the internet. This technology allows users to analyze electricity produced by each individual solar panel or the system as a whole at any given time via the internet.

“The web-based system provides access in the classroom, which is an example of math and science integration through technical and engineering applications,” Carver said.

WVU student teachers from the Five-Year Teacher Education and Master of Arts in Secondary Education will also assist with classroom activities and service-learning projects with Carver’s guidance as the technology’s curriculum developer.

“The technology will initially be used in physical science courses and an energy elective through observations of energy consumption and use,” Carver said. “It will eventually be expanded into biology and physics courses to consider the input and output of solar energy in photovoltaic cells and biological applications of solar energy.”

The solar panels will be built as an awning system on the south wall of the school’s gymnasium, making it viewable to the public.

Similarly, McDowell County High School has a solar panel system on its step-accessible roof. Because of the web-based monitoring technology on both systems, the schools have the potential to collaborate and exchange data.

“Future plans include utilizing the system as an educational tool with the community and other schools in the county through field trips,” Carver said. “The technology not only utilizes alternative energy sources and curriculum components for the students, but it advances STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) education research initiatives at the College of Human Resources and Education.”



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CONTACT: Christie Zachary, Human Resources and Education