Two members of the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville, participated in Redstone Arsenal’s Earth Day outdoor educational event last month at the post’s Path to Nature Wetland and Indian Education Center.
Representing Huntsville Center were Karl Gullatte, a project manager and community planner with the Center’s Engineering Directorate, and Chandler Word, a Department of the Army intern with the Interior Design Branch.
During the event, groups of fifth-graders from Horizon and Monte Sano elementary schools rotated through a variety of hands-on learning stations hosted by subject-matter experts from agencies such as NASA, U.S. Army Garrison Redstone, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Huntsville Center.
For their station, Gullatte and Word focused on the topic of renewable energy and brought along a solar-power demonstration device designed for students learning about the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The device, which includes fold-out solar panels, shows students how solar energy is collected, stored, converted and used for everyday applications.
Gullatte and Word let the students measure the voltage with an electrical tester and asked the students to take note of the changing numbers as they covered the panels to block the sunlight.
“It was a great way to get out the word about STEM to our future scientists, engineers and mathematicians in the local area,” said Gullatte, who challenged students to think of new ideas for renewable energy. “STEM is the future, and the Corps should be a part of sharing the knowledge to all, especially to the next generation.”
Word also drew from her interior design expertise and reminded students that the use of sustainable resources isn’t limited to energy, but is applied to building materials as well. Instead of a hands-on device, Word pointed at the students’ shoes and explained how the ground-up material from sneakers can be used as a flooring surface in gyms.
“What kind of flooring do you have at home?” she asked several groups of students, whose responses included tile, carpet and wood. Word brought up the example of using bamboo for flooring, as bamboo plants grow more quickly than hardwood trees and can be harvested more frequently.
Whereas the solar kit attracted plenty of interest from the students, Word said building materials are an example of something they will see when they go home.
“There’s the solar panel, but that’s kind of a big picture for kids; it’s not something that everybody uses every day,” Word said. “I hoped that they had a better understanding of sustainable resources and renewable energy for things that they look at and use and see every day.”