HISD students learning power of green energy

March 2, 2011 4:52:57 PM PST
At Washington High School, students are not only generating their own electricity, they're also using their resources to help out the school.

Nothing goes to waste in this engineering class -- literally. This bin of old, moldy pizza crust from the school cafeteria is being used to make biofuel.

"I was like, 'Wow, this is amazing.' I didn't know about this until I came to this school and it was amazing," 17-year-old Steven Benitez said.

That kind of excitement is as explosive as the biofuel these kids are learning to make from food scraps. The engineering magnet program at Washington High School near Garden Oaks has a unique curriculum.

Besides creating real biofuel, there's this contraption: a vertical access wind turbine, which produces electricity. It was designed and built by students. It's amazing since 18-year-old student Michael Jackson says he never heard of a wind turbine before.

"When I first got here, I was kind of nervous about whether or not I would enjoy the engineering field, but then Mr. Le, my teacher, he kinda opened the world of engineering to me," Jackson said.

The result is that the students are producing enough energy to power the lights, air conditioning and even a computer in this classroom. The juice comes from a larger wind turbine on the roof that is saving about $250 a month in electricity costs.

But for real savings, check this out: an $80 used washing machine, when in its spin cycle, is used as a centrifuge.

"It's really amazing because you can see household appliances and you now have different uses for them," 18-year-old Derek Charles said.

And like this washing machine, it is hoped these students will recycle what they've learned to benefit their community.

Other school districts have their own versions of going green. The Pasadena Independent School District has solar panels installed on two of its high schools that are predicted to save the district $15,000 a year on its electric bill.