#Nassau, December 18, 2018 – Bahamas – Local high school students are being introduced to the principles of renewable energy through the Energy Academy, an initiative introduced by St. John’s College High School (SJC) to promote green power throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. It is a programme endorsed by the Minister of Public Works the Hon. Desmond.
He shared some of the ideas for renewable energy with the first class of graduates who recently completed eight weeks of training at the Energy Academy.
“There is a group of Bahamians who are creating a waste to energy facility. You are going to see the dump turn into a waste to energy facility. All of the garbage we have been throwing out will be used to create energy – create power that you can harness to have energy in your home. That is an amazing thing.”
The graduates, their parents and school officials learned that in Andros there are Bahamians planning to cut down casuarina trees, an invasive species, which will be used to create energy.
Furthermore, in Abaco, there is an “amazing” bush that will also be used as an alternative energy source.
“The potential is unlimited. Young minds like yours are going to make a difference. You are the ones who are going to decide what The Bahamas is going to look like in the next 10, 20, 30 years,” Minister Bannister told the students.
Fr. Shazzbazar Turnquest, Physics and Designer Technology teacher at SJC, said the nucleus of the Energy Academy was a solar car that students built and raced in 2016 at the Solar Car challenge in Dallas, Texas.
The competition resulted in the receipt of a grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Fund to disseminate information about renewable energy.
“We have demonstrated it and now we need to educate others about it,” said Fr. Turnquest. “We got a small grant to launch this Energy Academy among other things. We sourced educational material from the USA, the kits that we have on display to provide a different approach to teaching children about renewable energy rather than writing it on the board.
Fr. Shazzbazar and a cohort of eight students, who have since completed high school, comprised the first team from the West Indies to be invited to the challenge. They competed with other elite high schools from the United States and passed four days of testing and completed four days of racing. They covered 42 laps around the Texas Motor Speed Way totalling 115 miles.
“That was the start of our renewable energy career,” said Fr. Shazzbazar.
“We gave them challenges each week where they were in teams. For example, they had to build a little solar car model and they raced it against each other. We made hydrogen out of an electrilizer and we used the hydrogen to power a fuel cell to complete a task. They built solar powered pumps and they had to pump water up into a reservoir. We made a game out of learning for them.”
The students, ranging in age from 10 to 16, were presented with certificates by Minister Bannister and Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands the Rt. Rev’d Bishop Laish Boyd.
“We want to get people excited about renewable energy because it is something we need to take advantage of in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
The students are using the frame of a used, sand sniper dune buggy donated to them by Rocksound Properties as a nucleus to build a new solar car which they will race in the Bridgestone World Solar Car Challenge.
“The Ministry of Public Works gave us a summer programme where we built a model to get children thinking about how we are going to build this car because we are not going around a track anymore we are actually going across country – 3,000 kilometres in the outback of Australia. It is rugged and we had to modify it to make it completely solar and electric powered,” said Fr. Turnquest.
Once the car is designed and built to specification it will make a six weeks journey to Australia and go through a scrutineering process to check the functions and systems to ensure its ability to sustain the journey across the outback. Following approval it will be allowed to race from Darwin to Melbourne.
“These are the home owners who will have solar panels on their homes, who will be driving electric cars, who will have to live in a climate that has been destroyed by pollution due to fossil fuels and we have to compensate for it. These are the children who will live in low lying island states that need to be mindful that global warming is going to threaten their very existence.
“The students are very keen. Bahamian children are naturally brilliant and creative. The approach that we use to teach them is very boring and frustrating. You only need to demonstrate to them once and then they can go and do. The more creative ones will actually modify and come up with something even better than you would have demonstrated.”
By: Kathryn Campbell
Header: Fr. Shazzbazar Turnquest, students and guests view the dune buggy which will be transformed into a solar car to race in the Bridgestone World Solar Car Challenge.
First insert: Minister of Public Works the Hon. Desmond Bannister addresses the audience at the graduation ceremony.
Second insert: Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands the Rt. Rev’d Bishop Laish Boyd and Minister of Public Works the Hon. Desmond Bannister view some of the presentations by the students of the Energy Academy.
(Photo credit: Lyndon M. W. Sweeting)