This blog is a guest post by Jalaysia Hagewood, a graduating senior at Whites Creek High School in Nashville, TN. Jalaysia and her classmates are designing and building the Whites Creek Solar Farm, a 13.2 kilo-watt array designed and built by students, as part of their course work within the school’s Academy of Alternative Energy, Sustainability and Logistics. The groundbreaking was celebrated on May 17.
Being a Senior in the alternative energy path at Whites Creek High School has been a very exciting experience thus far. In the last year we’ve embarked on a journey into solar energy. From coming up with an idea to benefit our community, winning the Ford STEAM community challenge, traveling to Detroit to meet with CEOs and do presentations for huge crowds, to then coming home and starting our award-winning project.
Our teacher, Dr. Gibson, introduced to us the Ford STEAM Community Challenge and tasked our class with coming up with an idea to fit the criteria of the challenge. We had to come up with an idea that would help benefit our community. We had won a previous competition through Ford for our idea to drive from Canada to Florida only on biofuels made in our class. However, this time we had to do something completely different in order to wow everyone at Ford for another year in a row. It took a while for us to have an idea that we wanted to stick with. At first, we leaned towards doing something along the lines of using hydrogen but felt like it was too close to what we had done the previous year. Then we decided to try our hand at a solar themed project. We settled on building a solar farm on the property of our school. Our class wanted to make running Whites Creek more efficient even if the change wasn’t drastic, every little bit still mattered. With this idea we won for a second year. The time had come to put our plans into motion.
I was very skeptical about the project at first. Not in the idea itself but how in the world would a group of teenagers ever pull this off on our own. It was great that we won with our idea, but it was just so intimidating to have just been a regular high school student to suddenly having the world look at you and expecting something great. I didn’t want to let anybody down. In the past, we had problems with leadership and getting along with one another when situations became serious and down to the wire. Tensions were high because none of us wanted to fail so some situations definitely got very heated. Nevertheless, we never lost sight of the challenge placed in front of us. We put our differences aside for the greater good of the project and made it work.
I was put in charge of the media aspect of this project. My job so far has been to photograph and keep records of the activities associated with the solar farm. I’d consider myself more as a secretary than anything. Floating around assisting pretty much anyone who expressed that they needed my help. A background character to a greater plan. Which is completely fine by me. I just love to help by any means necessary.
In the beginning we ran into a few obstacles such as who would lead the project, location, the size of the solar farm, mounting positions of the panels, informational pieces associated with the solar farm.
As of now these problems have been more or less resolved. Manny was chosen to lead the project. He’s been an incredible leader. We looked around the school’s property and found the most optimal spot to place the solar panels. It was decided that we would do one row of forty solar panels. The position in which we placed the solar panels was talked amongst our group for some time till we found the best way to have them was portrait. McKenzie was tasked with giving an informational excerpt about the project to place on a plaque. She currently has some great information about what we’re doing.
Contacting contractors was new for most of us. Some of us had a little more experience in communication. Me personally, I had never even called back for a job let alone talking to professionals asking for help. Exploring the electrical systems of our school was quite an exciting and rewarding experience. Even though we had a firm grasp of solar already, Mr. Carney dove deeper and gave us a better understanding of how electrical systems are associated with solar. He’s been great at guiding us thus far.
Since the class of 2018 started this project and we are to be graduating soon we’ll have to leave the completion of the project to the underclassmen of Whites Creek High School. I can already tell that this is going to be a fantastic addition not only to our school but community as well.