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First Monroe Co. Solar Panel Sparks Education | Education

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First Monroe Co. Solar Panel Sparks Education

A new program at Mary Persons High School will allow students to focus on a career in engineering and technology, and solar energy plays a huge part in their education.

These young engineers at Banks Stephens Middle school have to build a chair strong enough to support their teacher.

The catch is that it has to be made purely out of cardboard.

It's one of the many hands-on projects these seventh graders tackle.

The class is an introduction to a new academic pathway students can take in high school. 

Pathways are career-focused classes that include topics like agriculture and construction.

"I think it's definitely kind of like vocational training. Either go into healthcare and go, 'Oh, this is for me,' or you go into engineering and technology and you go, 'Oh this is for me,'" says Maiah Wiley, a freshman.

The pathway, Energy Systems, is brand new to the state of Georgia and started just this year. 

Technology teacher Bob Meachum is spearheading the program.

"They're going to study things like power generation, power distribution," he says.

About 50 students in the program will tap into resources around the county, like the new solar panel at Banks Stephens.

"I've seen it, but I didn't know if it worked at all or not," Wiley says.

An average solar panel costs a little under $14,000, but Green Power EMC donated the solar panel to the school.

"We'll spend a good deal in the course talking about alternative energy systems," says Meachum.

The panel is already collecting energy from the sun. 

That data can be pulled up on a computer and be used across the county. It's sparking interest in the field of engineering.

"There's obviously always a need for technology and it's always expanding every day," Wiley says.

But before these budding engineers graduate to learning about power plants and solar energy, they start out with a foundation. 

In this case, it's made out of cardboard. 

This is the 34st solar panel installed in a Georgia school and the first for Monroe County.

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