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MadConnects Highlight: Ranger Station Solar Challenge

Brand new STEM instructor Glenn Hannold hit the ground running this year with a "real world" scenario that has become and will become more and more prevalent-- harnessing solar power.

Mr. Hannold explains: The lessons and related activities relate directly to the real world by presenting challenges that use real places and solve actual problems being faced in the world today. In the case of our Ranger Station challenge, students were attempting to design a one-man Park Ranger station in Denali National Park, Alaska that was so remote it had no access to the electrical grid. When designing a power solution, students had to factor in things like weather conditions that occur near and in the Arctic Circle where the sun does not set for several months during the summer but then in the winter it will stay below the horizon for an even longer period of time. We looked at the geography of Denali to determine suitable locations and then determined what the best sources of energy would be based on what was available versus how much power we needed to generate. Very few things were assumed or "given" and as a result, students were coming up with some very creative solutions."

He continues "Our lesson involved a lot of collaboration by having students work together in teams of 2-4 to do everything from run power calculations to determining where to mount solar panels. The more math-oriented students enjoyed calculating the power usage chart while the more artistically inclined students enjoyed bringing their teams' ideas to life. They had a lot of freedom in designing their Ranger Station so there was a lot of discussion about what methods of energy generation were the best with a few students even bringing some personal experience with using solar panels and backup generators."

Mr Hannold observed that one of the great highlights of the lesson was the discussions surrounding various forms of energy sources and coming up with novel solutions on how to improve them. One student offered an idea of electricity from moonlight, and another, "Could we power turbines from snowfall?"

Great, engaging lesson here, Mr. Hannold! The students and staff are excited to have you in Madison!

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