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Ask Slashdot: Classroom Eco-Projects Suited To Alaska?

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the demonstrate-permafrost-fusion dept.

Earth 157

First time accepted submitter shortyadamk writes "I just started a new job where I will have to visit many high school science classes and have the students participate in 1-3 day projects regarding sustainable energy and environmental sciences (in order to promote the regional universities' programs). I've looked at a number of the boxed projects available online and many of them are solar projects; my biggest issue with that is that we are in rural Alaska and much of the time I'll be visiting classes will be in the winter (when we have very little sunlight — and even if we did it would be too cold to go and play in). I'm curious if anyone has any ideas or suggestions for demonstrations and projects that can be done in the classroom and do not require sunlight. One other catch is that the project has to be small enough to fit in a suitcase or plastic tote; we don't have any roads connecting the villages so I will have to fly the project from school to school with me."

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Pooping in the snow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316270)

How to do it properly and not end up with mud butt

Don't? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316280)

> I will have to fly the project from school to school with me

Sounds like you should be doing demonstrations of oil drilling techniques.

Re:Don't? (0)

PIBM (588930) | about 3 years ago | (#37316872)

As it will be winter, why not use a snowmobile ? You could bring a lot of things with you :)

Wolf hunting (0)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#37316284)

Everyone bring your rifles to class tomorrow. Billy, you're excused as usual.

Re:Wolf hunting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316648)

Since you've already brought your rifles, we can also go tell any Russians we find sneaking over the boarder to go back home. There will be no invasion while I'm govern^H^H^H^H^H^H^H unemployed.

Re:Wolf hunting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316770)

I was going to say, there was a part of the post that probably got cut off that read "Incidentally, the first person who mentions moose gets shot".

Easy (0, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | about 3 years ago | (#37316300)

see, that's easy.

Just figure out how many houses can be powered by hot air coming out of Sarah Palin, it's going to be an interesting project and definitely different from everybody else.

Maybe she can be used to power USPS [] in Alaska, she has the money, right? She is now one of them rich people. Use her to power USPS and the globe.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316382)

I figured this article would be used as an excuse to make an empty, pointless, and uninspired Sarah Palin joke. Congratulations: You're the first one on this thread to jump onto the bandwagon.

Re:Easy (0)

holdme (2454486) | about 3 years ago | (#37316460)

If you want I can make meaningful and inspired Sarah Palin jokes, would you then hold me?

Re:Easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316776)

Heheh. Sara Palin is dumb and stuff. Hehehe. Hehehe.

Biofuel (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316320)

Heat some fresh wood chips in a test tube with a gas burner. Transfer the liquid to a small distiller (the kids already know this one from their dad's shed) and collect the burnable methanole fraction. Use it for a direct methanole fuel cell an charge a RC car.

To expound on that... (5, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | about 3 years ago | (#37316480)

It's been a while since I learned about Alaska, but don't they have significant methane trapped in peat moss? That could be a good tie in to the methanole fuel.

Another option would be to get a miniaturized steam engine. People may think they are antiquated, but steam is what generates almost all of the electricity in this country. The heat can come from geo-thermal, nuclear, solar salts, coal, etc... but it all does the same thing: boil water.


Re:To expound on that... (1)

Sleepy (4551) | about 3 years ago | (#37317712)

While frozen land has plenty of sequestered carbon in the form of methane and peat.. the poster was asking about "eco" projects, which is quite opposite from your answer. You may have as well suggested an eco project based on drilling for oil. :-) Releasing all that trapped methane and carbon is the -last- thing humanity needs (although as the planet warms... it may release all of it anyways... the feedback loop danger that we're ignoring).

Regarding the poster's question, I believe Stirling engines work in extreme cold (if there is warmth at the other end). Also peltier electric cooling is interesting. There is plenty of wind power in cold climates.

There are not very many ecological projects suited to Alaska... fewer still that can be transported by air... which is a pity... I imagine heat pipes buried beneath the permafrost would have excellent utility..

Re:Biofuel (3, Interesting)

elfprince13 (1521333) | about 3 years ago | (#37316810)

Mod this man up. The (solid) biofuel-oriented nonprofit I started here in VT began in a high school physics classroom. Don't just get the students involved in the science, get them involved in applying the science in the community. Home Thermal energy use (heating and cooling) is a much more accessible field to get budding environmentally minded scientists+engineers started in than the two "sexy" ones (transportation + electricity), but still takes up a similar proportion of the total energy pie, and I suspect even more than the other two given the locale. Biomass (densified or gasified) makes for a great classroom project. Passive cooling also works well in climates like VT and Alaska, but to pull that off requires a much larger scale than works well in a classroom. You could still do something with insulation and learning about R-values though.

Re:Biofuel (1)

elfprince13 (1521333) | about 3 years ago | (#37316920)

I should mention that my experience with classroom eco-projects (in a rural northern state) landed our group the state Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention, and resulted in one of my classmates receiving the prestigious Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership, and produced a 501(c)3 that has received ~$80,000 in state and federal funding.

Re:Biofuel (1)

camelrider (46141) | about 3 years ago | (#37317210)

Of course you must keep in mind that in the Arctic the available biofuels are the fat from whales,walrus, seal, bears and caribou.

Re:Biofuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317024)

You do realize that they don't have trees there, right? Wood chips are probably not readily available.


Re:Biofuel (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37317140)

um since fucking when?

Do you need real sun now? (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316328)

Do the boxed solar projects actually require real sun in order to be educational? I mean, would the principles be evident to the students if you shone an electric light at solar panels indoors?

There's an awful lot of sunlight in Alaska during the summer, and the students should have long enough memories to know that.

Re:Do you need real sun now? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316464)

I think catching the hot air coming out of the entire renewable energy scam would be sufficient. Perhaps burning the now defunct half Billion dollar Solyndra plant scam would warm the hearts of many. They had a fantastic business model. Make solar items that cost 6.00 per unit.....sell them for 3.00 per unit. Make Billions from Government subsidies....heh. But then the Chinese came along and sold them for 1.80 per unit....oops. Massive FAIL. Government then pays Democratic fundraiser the Half Billion back. heh, again.

Now you see the methodology of the Leftist crap shoot of "renewable government subsidies"....not "renewable energy"

Teach them how to drill for Oil up there....then they will have and make money.

Re:Do you need real sun now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316666)

You forgot, the Chinese are making their product at 5 bucks a unit, while selling them a 1.80.

That's even more of a loss for them.

But thanks for not noticing both sides of the equation, and just instead blaming the Leftists who you hate.

United States of Energy - by Scholastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316340)

Oh, definitely! Check out the United States of (coal) Energy by Scholastic! It's a great example of an eco project that explains the clean benefit of Coal and Oil, energy sources that should be well-understood (and loved!) by the people of Alaska! -

Low-Power horticulture (3, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | about 3 years ago | (#37316342)

Get an LED light and some tiny starter pots and seeds.

I can help you out with that.

Re:Low-Power horticulture (2)

Phreakiture (547094) | about 3 years ago | (#37316904)

For bonus points, how about powering them from a small wind turbine like this one? []

"regional universities' programs" (0)

Will Steinhelm (1822174) | about 3 years ago | (#37316344)

Seems like if you're promoting the programs from the regional university, you should have examples related to those programs. Surely they aren't doing solar-based programs in Alaska?

Ask the University (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#37316626)

Why not ask the university? Seriously, any student or professor worth knowing will take five minutes and try to think up a program or two.

Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 3 years ago | (#37316348)

Obviously you could pack up a small turbine and multimeter and take it outside and show the kids the power generation. You might even contact the Alaskan wind industries [] asking for a kit to raise awareness in schools.

Another thought is thermoelectrics via Seebeck and Peltier Effects [] . I think you can pick up cheap little thermoelectric kits [] that are horribly inefficient (10%?) but if you could coordinate with the school, you might have access to a heat exhaust or something nearby where you could set up the device and show the kids that you can harvest some of the energy coming off the exhausts. Failing that, you could boil a pot of water and position it over it? If it's cold as hell outside, you might even be able to just push it up against a window?

Really, it's just be important to get the kids thinking critically about where energy transfer is lost and how it can be harvested. Most importantly I would stress the efficiency analysis so they realize why your little device isn't the answer to all their problems (but with enough research and knowledge they might find a better solution). You know, give them a little lesson on initial cost versus return and figure out how long it would take your device sitting there at that external temperature for you to fully recoup your cost.

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

bgat (123664) | about 3 years ago | (#37316428)

I think you can pick up cheap little thermoelectric kits [] that are horribly inefficient (10%?)...

ALL Peltier coolers are horribly inefficient. 10% efficiency is a pretty decent one, in fact.

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316496)

Obviously you could pack up a small turbine and multimeter and take it outside and show the kids the power generation.

The kind of temperatures you'd be talking in the winter, I wouldn't want to take kids outside any more than I had to.

Grow a Pair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316616)

Obviously you could pack up a small turbine and multimeter and take it outside and show the kids the power generation.

The kind of temperatures you'd be talking in the winter, I wouldn't want to take kids outside any more than I had to.

I'm pretty sure if you're a kid in Alaska, you're smart enough to bundle up before you go to school. I grew up in Minnesota and I would have to wait half an hour to an hour for the bus to get to school outside, throwing snow around in pretty darn cold temperatures. We'd put on snowsuits, galoshes and scarves and go outside all day Saturday sledding and throwing snowballs. Fun as hell. There were recesses that were easily 0 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit [] on a daily basis -- sometimes colder. Anchorage is downright balmy compared to that [] . Granted Northern Alaska gets colder, it is possible to live outside for several hours if you're suitably dressed.

Inuits and Native Americans did it and I'd wager so can Alaskans.

Re:Grow a Pair (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316794)

Try your snowsuit at -40 degrees. Temperatures where if you chuck a mugful of freshly boiled water in the air, it's frozen before it hits the ground.

Granted, it only gets that low a few times a year in Fairbanks, but I'd personally be trying to stay indoors as much as possible even at, say, 30 below.

I bet the Eskimos (as you're encouraged to call them in Alaska) stay indoors as much as they can in those temperatures. Hunt on dry land in the summer; hunt on the sea ice in spring until it thaws. Store stuff and bed down for winter. (This is based on hazy recollections of a guided tour of Barrow -- in the summer)

Got a video? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316892)

Try your snowsuit at -40 degrees. Temperatures where if you chuck a mugful of freshly boiled water in the air, it's frozen before it hits the ground.

You mean like this [] ?

Go ahead and treat your kids like porcelain dolls, it's your choice. The reality is that we were outside having fun exercising in extreme temperatures.

Yes, Barrow is colder but given many layers and face protection, you can stand outside for twenty minutes while some guy hooks a multimeter up to a turbine.


Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#37316814)

My wife teaches High School science in Anchorage, if its above 10 F they can go outside for school work.

In the winter, the dark is more of a hinderance to working outside than the cold.

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316902)

Anchorage is quite a way south though. It routinely goes way below 2F is the average *high* in January. -13 is the average low.

Lovely in summer though!

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 3 years ago | (#37316978)

Anchorage is more moderate because of proximity to the sea.

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37317076)

I meant to say that IN FAIRBANKS it routinely goes way below. That's where 2F is the average *high* in January. -13 is the average low.

As you say, it's warmer in Anchorage.

I assumed since the OP is flying around, he'd be in the wild north. (Although Anchorage is hardly Manhattan :) )

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | about 3 years ago | (#37316914)

With a small turbine you don't need to go outside. You could use a fan to simulate the wind, or simply turn it manually. Or have the kids blow really, really hard. :oD

Re:Obvious Wind Power or Maybe Thermoelectrics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316726)

How about using a Stirling engine instead?

also ask on otherpower at (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 3 years ago | (#37316728)

Also ask on

That's where a lot of renewable energy people hang out. (Among them is "Wild In Alaska", who built a wind turbine out of a scrap garbage disposal motor to power his pickup camper.)

Obvious choices for Alaska are:
  - Wind power.
  - Thermoelectric on exhaust from wood-burning house heating systems.
  - Heat engines ditto. Sterling or steam. (Note that these are mainly experimental at this point. No commercial systems are available as far as I know for generation from waste heat at less than industrial size instalations.)
  - Diesel generators running on biodiesel fuel (from food production waste) with exhaust heat scavenged for heating.
  - Solar in SUMMER.
All of these - along with related battery storage, control systems, house heating, energy conservation, etc., are discussed extensively on that board.

And most of them are impractical in much of Alaska.

Why are the Alaska schools hosting and promoting this? Alaska is NOT a good site for renewable energy: Extreme cold. Winter storms that can knock down, tear up, or ice up a wind turbine - in an environment where repair work is hazardous. Negligible to zero solar input for months when energy is most needed. Main available energy resources are wood, crude oil, natural gas, and animal fat. The price/performance ratio on virtually all renewable energy systems is even more horrendous there than in the contiguous forty-eight.

This sounds to me like the politically correct school administrators have run amok. Unless it is intended to teach them what they'll find if they move to other states.

I strongly recommend that you ALSO teach them that the current systems are not cost-effective in their area.

Re:also ask on otherpower at (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316866)

Main available energy resources are wood, crude oil, natural gas, and animal fat.

Of course, efficiently burning wood from properly managed forestry, is green energy. The tree you grow to replace the one you burned, fixes equivalent CO2 to that which you released in the burning.

The same could be said of animal fat, I suppose, depending on the energy sources used in rearing the animal.

For the world's sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316350)

Do the following project: how long can Sarah survive naked in the snow.

Bicycle-powered stuff? (3, Insightful)

bgat (123664) | about 3 years ago | (#37316360)

I recall seeing somewhere a stationary bike apparatus, e.g. "treadmill", which triatheletes use in the off-season. It's a frame that you put your own bicycle onto, and then pedal away like there is no tomorrow.

The frame I saw folded up into something pretty small and easily portable. I don't know if bicycles are as popular in Alaska as they are in the lower 48, but if so then perhaps a student would volunteer their own for a few days during your presentations.

You'd want to modify the apparatus so that it could be used to power a lamp, or something else that you would likely find at each destination. In fact, purpose-built treadmills-as-power-generators probably exist.

A nice side-effect of such an apparatus is that it tangibly illustrates just how much power even a small lamp consumes, considering how hard students need to pedal to generate the electricity required. You could demonstrate that CFL lights use less electricity by demonstrating that they don't have to pedal as hard to light it, and could show that the excess electricity of the incandescent lamp is converted to heat with a simple non-contact, IR thermometer like those sold at Radio Shack. Then swap the lamp for an X-Box, etc. etc.

Teaching students to use less electricity is an even better goal than teaching them new ways to generate it.

Artificial Sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316362)

Bring Battery Powered lights to simulate sunlight.

Enclosed Vertical Farms (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316376)

Kids could learn about farming, and grow some of their own food year round. Increases carrying capacity of the earth. Maybe a carbon sink, I don't know how long it will take to offset carbon used in construction...

choice (1)

confused one (671304) | about 3 years ago | (#37316378)

In Alaska, would solar be a good choice for sustainable energy? Or would wind and tidal (hydro) power be more relevant? I think a small wind turbine would be a better choice for your demo.

Re:choice (0)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316470)

There's an awful lot of sunlight in Alaska in the summer.

Plenty of Alaskan settlements are nowhere near the sea, so tidal power wouldn't seem relevant everywhere.

Possible options (1)

wildtech (119936) | about 3 years ago | (#37316388)

Simplest would be a laptop with the right software. I don't know what might be available software-wise, but a little research should turn up something.

Is there a reason you can't use a grow light instead of solar power from the sun?

For an elaborate solution, assuming you have internet access from the remote sites... Do a 'Silent Running' type Biosphere somewhere sunny, with robots that can be remotely controlled to perform tasks as needed in this biosphere. The students would love it and you would get good publicity for the program as well as some corporate sponsorships if you pull it off.

That's all I got for you.

- WildTech

Re:Possible options (1)

bgat (123664) | about 3 years ago | (#37316582)

Is there a reason you can't use a grow light instead of solar power from the sun?

Because he has only 2-3 days per site. Nothing will sprout while he's there, which means either a lame presentation, expendables that he has to leave at each site, and/or additional work for the teacher after he leaves.

Also, at the high school level I don't think you'd hold someone's interest with a heat lamp and a bean sprout in a styrofoam cup. Well, you MIGHT hold their interests, but probably not for reasons that the school's administration would sanction. :)

Geothermal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316390)

Use a heating element from coffee maker and an aquarium pump with some tubing that circulates hot water that runs a sterling machine.

tidal power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316400)

Could a miniature tidal generator be constructed in a lucite box?

Commission (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316402)

Can we get 10% of your salary as a commission for doing your job for you?

Those solar projects are perfect in the Winter (2)

Quila (201335) | about 3 years ago | (#37316422)

You have them build them, check out the results, and then you can say "Now you know why solar isn't a panacea for our energy needs."

Re:Those solar projects are perfect in the Winter (1)

slim (1652) | about 3 years ago | (#37316742)

Firstly - don't expect high school kids to know what "panacea".

Secondly - don't teach kids that they should go looking for panacaea.

Solar power is no help to Alaskans in the winter. In the summer though, many homes and businesses could run on their own solar panels. It wouldn't eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels -- but it would reduce it.

Re:Those solar projects are perfect in the Winter (2)

halivar (535827) | about 3 years ago | (#37317288)

I knew what a panacea was when I was in middle school.

Then again, I did get beaten up a lot...

Re:Those solar projects are perfect in the Winter (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317404)

If you're after the Latin plural for panacea, it's panaceae. The English plural of pancake is pancakes.

Something simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316424)

How about an infrared camera and those foam things you stick behind AC wall sockets?

Take the IR camera outside to see where the biggest losses are.

Something Useful (1)

Pat Attack (1353585) | about 3 years ago | (#37316448)

Instead of taking jabs at Alaska, let me offer an idea: How about a project on biological energy? Something on the creation and use of biodiesel? You could create the fuel in the classroom with the students and use a small motor to demonstrate the use. The only caveat is that you will have to fly with these liquid materials, some of them flammable. On the same token, you could do an ethanol project. Are either of these projects feasibly suitable to the Alaskan ecosystem? Does it allow for the growth of the vegetation required?

microbial fuel cells (2)

dbc (135354) | about 3 years ago | (#37316476)

here's one: []
You can google up a bunch of alternatives, and buy simple kits if your budget runs to that. But the ingredients are cheap, you could save money kitting up a bunch yourself.

the nuclear option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316482)

renewable energy is bullshit. The only components that aren't are hydroelectric and burning municipal waste. Maybe you can set some trash on fire.

Or, maybe you can show them a cloud chamber and have them build a scintillator or reproduce Rutherford's experiment that showed that atoms have nuclei.

Oh, and it's your job, quit asking other people to do it for you. I have half a mind to forward this post to your regional university's physics department.

Genetics (3, Interesting)

Mensa Babe (675349) | about 3 years ago | (#37316490)

I suggest diving into the synthetic biology movement. Take a look at the BioBricks Foundation [] . Search the Registry of Standard Biological Parts [] . Maybe there is something missing that you might contribute. Join iGEM [] , the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. It is a worldwide synthetic biology competition aimed mostly at undergraduate university and high school students. Some people there are doing amazing eco-friendly projects. And don't be scared by the recent anti-science hysteria. Genetic engineering in general and synthetic biology in particular is not as hard as people tend to think. It doesn't even has to be too serious. For example, in 2006 the MIT team engineered E. coli to produce a wintergreen scent during exponential phase and a banana scent during stationary phase, known as the "banana-fart" bacteria. Some kids are engineering just amazing DNA to produce bacteria that help to digest pollution, or converts sunlight into energy that is easy to use. There is a lot to be done in synthetic biology and both BioBricks and iGEM are directed towards young people who want to experiment and collaborate, without the need to synthesise everything from scratch. You don't need sunlight to do that and you don't need expensive equipment any more. These days people are sending DNA by email and change it like it was just a computer program - which it is in a sense, but it is software that builds hardware. This is truly amazing stuff and I believe this the future of fixing our planet. We have to help mother nature. And this is the most optimal way to do it - from the ground up. iGEM and BioBricks is a great way for young students to dive into it.

ironic really (1)

Ian 0x57 (688051) | about 3 years ago | (#37316512)

that you are pushing a technology that has flaws and you can't demo it because of the flaws. Maybe isn't the solve all problems solution that some think it is, unless you live in a sunny place. Change to something that is relevant for the area, not something that they will see has no impact on them.

Alaska needs all the global warming it can get! (0)

yoghurt (2090) | about 3 years ago | (#37316532)

Why would Alaska want renewable energy? If you produce more CO2 then maybe you could go out and play in the winter.

SHIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316554)

Ferment some reindeer shit in an insulated container, and burn the resulting methane.

two desmonstrations I think would be relevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316576)

seeing a hands on demonstration of reflectivity and a surface's albedo and a demonstration, and forgive my ignorance to the name of this phenomena, the results of the feedback loop created when melt-water sinks through ice and flows underneath the ice. I'm a little foggy here but I believe the rate of melting increases and/or the ice's movement accelerates.

Tell them if there are millions of civilizations out there, these uncountable alien beings are probably in the same boat we are, living at the grace and at the mercy of our constantly evolving universe. And if you can fit in there that what we know as a species and what we know as individuals is pretty small compared to what we have yet to discover and may not discover. And that there is a lot of what we think we know that is likely pretty damn wrong. Give them humility is what I guess I'm saying.

Bring a Compact Sun Lamp (2)

umbrellasd (876984) | about 3 years ago | (#37316596)

to drive your solar panel! Problem solved. Then teach them about the Law of Thermodynamics and the folly of perpetual motion machines in history. Then talk about the data from: [] , and the infeasibility of any energy source to satisfy the hungry maw of exponential energy consumption. Then you might consider a small wind turbine (driven by a fan, of course--no I'm serious, you could use the fan as a prop and explain what happens when you reverse the energy path), and touch on geothermal and tidal power. Tidal power is something you could make your own prop for (just add water on-site and be the wave machine).

Still think the Sun Lamp idea is funniest and quite realistic given the craze to trade food for energy and other such nonsensical ideas.

Uphill challange (5, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about 3 years ago | (#37316606)

Your problem is actually the countries problem. Green Energy works good in some spots and not all. Solar, Wind, Tidal, Hydroelectric, all have good and bad locations. More portable energy, Coal, Oil, Nuclear. Can be planned for and allocated and distributed anywhere for 24/7 usage, however tends to carry a larger environmental cost (Or just crazy people who fear it blindly like for Nuclear).

I remember in school an important lesson that most people do not get about environmentalism. Everything you do has a trade-off. How many fish die in those Tidal/Hydroelectric power. How many trees will you need to knock down for you Solar/Wind farm and what do do about night/no wind... There isn't any golden ticket for free energy they all come with a cost. Right now we are seeing the Fossil Fuels have been giving off there costs for too long and is making the problem worse.
You should be teaching those kids about trade offs, not some magical future tech that will solve all our problems. Explain how to generate electricity how we use different types of energy. How usually when changing one energy to an other there is often a loss to a different form of energy that isn't useful. How to store energy, batteries, flywheels, springs... Heck show them when you stretch a rubber-band it gets warmer, and if you let it contract it gets cooler.
You need to train kids to be think clearly environmentalism not envionuts and go out wasting more resources to stop all the evils that come up.

Re:Uphill challange (0)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | about 3 years ago | (#37317016)

I remember in school an important lesson that most people do not get about environmentalism. Everything you do has a trade-off.

Hush. He's supposed to plant anti-capitalistic dreams in these children's heads, not give them actual facts and numbers.

If you show that the most efficient energy source is also the cheapest, then the kids may realize that subsidizing wind farms with tax money depletes our resources more than traditional forms!

The core of the environmental movement today is making Americans to feel guilty for their existence, and then using this guilt to extract money from them. Al Gore has done it by selling carbon credits to guilty feeling Americans. Car manufactures have tricked people to junking cars worth thousands of dollars in order to buy yet another new car that will save them a couple hundred dollars in gas. Farmers have tricked us into burning our food, so that they can sell more of it.

If you really want to do this right, you should sell the kids a book, some carbon credits of your own making, and charge them for your speech. You could also tell them that if they give you enough money, you'll stop flying your plane around, and really save the environment even more. The more ridiculous, the better. If you do it right, these kids will actually learn to evaluate such scams correctly before they get to voting age!

Re:Uphill challange (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | about 3 years ago | (#37317218)

This is exactly why we should be pouring all this ill-conceived "green" energy funding into fusion. Wind energy just feels so absurd knowing that you could cover texas in turbines and still not come close to meeting our energy demand.

Pin wheel powered LED? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316614)

How about a small project to show wind energy? I don't know if you are specifically looking for energy-type projects, but that is one I can think of off the top of my head. If there is no wind, then they can blow on it. There are many tutorials on google and I wouldn't know which would be the best/easiest/cheapest one.

Really (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37316646)

If your going to be a teacher and cant figure out SOMETHING to do in one of the most wild areas on north America then you dont need to be teaching these kids.

I mean fucking seriously whats Alaska known for, wilderness, oil, survival, I dunno do a eco project on how pumping oil hurts the permafrost you moron

Re:Really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316732)

But seriously, maybe the teacher is looking for better ideas and trying to tap a broader audience. Osgeld, do you write all your code in-house and use nothing from the world; do you never google for a better way to do something; do you never ask a colleague; do you never try to consult a creative community? If not then either you are stupid or so brilliant you must run the NSA singlehanded from an ipad.

Re:Really (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37317008)

I dont ask a random community to secure my future from my incompetence, I ask other professionals in the field

Re:Really (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316918)

how mis-informed can one individual be?

so a teacher asks for help and you slam him? if you have no constructive ideas, please don't post.

I lived in Alaska for 4 1/2 years starting in 1971. I was very fortunate to have a high school physics teacher that was very interested in real, usable, inexpensive energy conservation projects. We weren't eco-nuts, just kids learning valuable lessons. We covered subjects as wide ranging as berm-housing to geo-thermal to solar energy. As pointed out by jellomizer all had good and bad points but we studied each and tried to understand their impact.

Re:Really (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37317052)

I would not want a teacher anywhere near my kids who's effort includes looking a a few solar projects out of a book and running to slashdot.

Your experience sounds fine, sounds like you had a teacher who cared, this one however has the imagination of a brick, the professionalism of a bum, and sofar has spent a whole 2 paragraphs of effort to figure out what they are going to do.

Re:Really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317308)

His error is like relying on something posted on Slashdot to evaluate someone's professional competence; because as we all know, nothing exists outside of Slashdot.

Geothermal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316662)

I'd imagine you could create a geothermal power model with a bunsen burner (magma), a round bottom flask (underground water), a glass tube (for rising steam), and a 'turbine' light enough to be spun by the steam. It's likely the only item you'd actually have to bring with you is the turbine.

As for applicability, Alaska has more geothermal land area than any other state (Because it's huge).

Wintertime projects (3, Funny)

Chuckles08 (1277062) | about 3 years ago | (#37316680)

My suggestion is a field trip to Costa Rica...:-)

Random ideas (3, Insightful)

CODiNE (27417) | about 3 years ago | (#37316702)

Rocket stoves and fuel efficiency.

A thermal camera along with a study of various insulators such as foams, plastic, types of glass panes.

Make some kind of DIY motor that runs on snow. Should work given temperature differences. And has a nice "But that's impossible!" factor.

DIY paper recycling.

DIY plastic bag recycling by boiling them in a pan. You can make nice strong plastic this way. Heck bring a mold and make some kind of knick knack they get to take home. Be sure it has a logo and website stamped on it somewhere.

Turn a small DC motor into a wind-powered generator.

Organic Batteries (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 3 years ago | (#37316720)

Maybe something to do with organic batteries? I don't have any hands on experience, but they do exist, and some don't involve toxic chemistry. I sort of vaguely think there are even some very minor practical applications in some places. At the very least, you should be able to gin up enough power to light an LED or spin a small motor from a kit you can carry in your suitcase. Maybe you can even generate/store power from/in something cobbled together from local materials at the school.

Subtle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316722)

I just started a new job where I will have to visit many high school science classes and have the students participate in 1-3 day projects regarding sustainable energy and environmental sciences (in order to promote the regional universities' programs).

What I read there was something like, "I have to visit many high school science classes to program the students with Green propaganda, on behalf of the Universities who are raking in funding from Government for this kind of thing.

Re:Subtle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317232)

Since the hyper environmentalism is a product of ex-hippies being manipulated by people wanting to use environmentalism to promote worldwide wealth redistribution and hippies always loved being "subversive", why not travel with a hunk of oil shale, a jar of oil sand, a sample of crude oil, a lump of coal and a small cylinder of nature gas and explain to the eager young high school kids that alarmists have been predicting for 70 years that fossil fuels are about to run out and, yet, the predictions have continued to proof false. Discuss with them the political and economic motivations of the alarmists, the role of crisis mongering in obtaining government research grants and tax payer subsidies for non-productive endeavors, the amount of tax dollars which are already devoted to developing new energy sources, the amount of private investment dollars which are already being spent on investigating and developing new energy sources, the fact that most big, government subsidized "renewable energy" projects in the U.S. and in Europe have turned into incredibly wasteful boondoogles which produce little, if any useful energy and are usually shutdown not long after they are completed. Supplement your discussions with written examples of discredited claims of impending extreme climate change disaster and discredited past claims of impending massive, worldwide food and energy shortages and predictions of mass dieoffs of humans. Point out to eager young minds that they have been indoctrinated to wring their hands over environmental issues and that they will be beat-over-the-head if they go to college with the notion that we are all "world citizens" who "share the common heritage" of the "world's resources" and that all of this is propaganda created by people eager to promote a worldwide collectivist empire.

Seriously, your job, as you describe it, really is nothing more than political pre-conditioning for further collegiate indoctrination. Nobody is going to learn much of importance in 3 days of dog-and-pony showing. Learning about "renewable energy" is not the point. Don't stress over what you are going to do. Your job is foster unreasonable concern about the "environment" in the minds of young, gullible minds and to demonize the current means of energy production and the corporations that provide the energy which sustains our society.

Take Sarah Palin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316796)

and put her in a giant hamster wheel.

Compost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316860)

Does it have to be power related? Why not something like composting? You could put a bunch of worms and organic matter into a plastic tote fairly easily. I might not want to travel with you and your compost, but other than the smell it should be fine, I'd think....

Non-engineering projects? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37316912)

1-3 day projects regarding sustainable energy and environmental sciences

Most/all of the answers have been mostly boxed engineering demos, not actual science projects.

The most obvious science project I can think of is gathering a whole bunch of snow, melting it, and figuring out what is inside it other than H2O.

I have done this, and there is a whole heck of a lot of pollen, and all manner of strange dusts under a microscope. Also just plain ole dirt. And its fun to "core sample" once you've got multiple snowfalls. Its easy to see distinct layers.

I'm thinking your suitcase and budget are not big enough for chemical analysis but a Really good trinocular microscope with video output to a TV is probably realistic. Add some ruled counting slides (forget the proper terminology, sorry) and some buckets / beakers to melt the water, maybe a tiny centrifuge and test tubes to concentrate "whatever"... Get yourself a wide collection of variable pore size filter papers and the chemistry gear to do vacuum filtration thru the various sizes.

Final advice, don't collect the yellow snow.

Re:Non-engineering projects? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37316986)

Get yourself a wide collection of variable pore size filter papers and the chemistry gear to do vacuum filtration thru the various sizes.

Whoops forgot the last line. Then take a couple drops of each filtration level and incubate some agar petri dishes and see what if anything grows. Bacteria, molds, possibly nothing. Those cultured plates also look interesting under the microscope.

Thermal Leak Detector (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316934)

I live in Maine and insulation is a big thing here in the winter. Buy one of these

Go around the school, or class room and look for thermal leaks, ask students to find ways to solve these leaks. You can even map out areas that are most common to thermal leaks.

I have an idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37316936)

The never-melting chunk of ice!

Easy Demo (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 3 years ago | (#37316954)

Maybe you could create a shoe box sized demo refrigerator that had a copper plate on the back and insulation on the front and sides such that the copper plate side would be exposed to the outside air to keep food cold while allowing the interior heat not to escape due to the insulation in the front and sides of the mini fridge.

Re:Easy Demo (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37317070)

or you could just set it in a box outside

Re:Easy Demo (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 3 years ago | (#37317624)

"or you could just set it in a box outside"

The kids probably do that from time to time in Winter at home. We fairly routinely stash stuff in the snow on the table on the deck in Winter and Vermont is warmer than most villages in rural Alaska..

Thermal Detector (2)

na1led (1030470) | about 3 years ago | (#37316970)

I live in Maine and insulation is a big thing here in the winter. Buy one of these [] Go around the school, or class room and look for thermal leaks, ask students to find ways to solve these leaks. You can even map out areas that are most common to thermal leaks.

Water to Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317088)

Got Ice? got water? than perhaps make a project where students can use water to power a small clock. Simple steps of having a Salt water reservoir and a fresh water reservoir, using a different type of metal in each water connect the leads to the clock. Or use a Volt meter to get the amount of current you are getting depending on the levels of salt and what types of metal you are using.

Campfire Power (1)

Quantus347 (1220456) | about 3 years ago | (#37317206)

Ive had good luck with demonstrations in Alaska of Sterling Engines and other external combustion technologies. They are quite popular for Alaskan audiences since the majority of the state has no central power grid, and in many cases no traditional running water, but will have a wood fire burning most of the year. Sterling engines for power generation, or even simple circulation systems that can be used to heat water for bathing (we filled a canoe with water and rigged a pedal power pump to circulate the water through a coil of copper tubing buried in the coals of a campfire)

Contact U of A, Fairbanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317236)

I strongly suggest you talk to folks at the Museum of the North[1], in Fairbanks. They currently have a special exhibit[2] on energy sources in the North (its more than oil).

Kickass museum, btw.


science proojects and TSA don't mix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317312)

The whole idea of packing up a science project and trying to check it into a plane's cargo compartment just won't fly these days. If the scanner at the TSA check[point doesn't understand it, and why would they, they'll simply flag it as a terrorist device and have it destroyed and you detained.

People have had little homemade very harmless devices built into Altoids mint tins taken and themselves detained because all the scanner could identify was a mysterious box with a few loose wires coming out of it. Caused panic in the airport security and shut the airport down for hours while they looked for more of these mysterious little terrorist devices.

No, don't try to move anything educational and scientific around via the air ways. You'll just put yourself in the way of a world of hurt.

wave power (1)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | about 3 years ago | (#37317330)

Since your flying from village to village your probably looking at southeast and/or a Aleutian islands. One thing those kinds of places have in abundance is waves. Perhaps you could find or create a wave generator demonstration kit.

rate of crude oil degradation in various temps (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 3 years ago | (#37317486)

Help explain why the 2010 oil spill disappeared fairly quickly in 85 degree Gulf of Mexico water and slowly in 40 degree Prince William Sound water in 1989. Maybe the ambient microbes matter too.

Only three real sources of power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37317680)

When you are talking sustainable power sources, I'm talking sources for the next million plus years not the next few hundred, there are only three real sources of power. Solar is the primary source since even fossil fuels are stored solar energy and all bio-mass is essentially solar energy that has been stored. Second is moon based which includes tidal power since the Moon is the source of tidal energy. The third is geothermal. It's been said that getting a 100% of all our energy needs for the next thousand years wouldn't reduce the Earth's core temperature one degree so it's a potential long term solution.

Your problem is in Alaska none of it is available readily in the winter months. There's some wind but that's essentially solar it's source is just many miles away. Rivers are either frozen or reduced in volume in the winter since there's no melting so that's not a solution. You have to dig down past the permafrost so geothermal isn't practical or everyone would heat their houses with it in Alaska. Really the only source other than wind in winter has to be stored energy and then you are limited to bio-mass. Most of the practical ones are going to have an eeewwww factor for school kids since they'd be based on animal and human waste. You could show how decaying plant matter produces heat. Let's say you have an insulated box of damp hay or even kitchen scraps. The problem is you need mass to generate a lot of heat. The potential use would be to heat a house in the winter time.

One of my favorites is bio-gas. A little remembered form is wood gas. You can look up wood bio-gas and find plans for making a wood burning gasoline engine. We aren't talking steam or even heat. It's running on gases released from burning wood in a low oxygen environment. If you know a decent mechanic they aren't hard to build. Something like a million cars and tractors were running on it during WWII due to fuel shortages.

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