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Alternative energy explored during Oak Ridge Science Camps

Middle school students learn about solar, wind and biofuel sciences at ORAU's Center for Science Education

July 28, 2011

Middle School Science Camp attendees conducting lab experiment

Students expand their knowledge and research experience as they follow detailed instructions in order to create and test their own biofuel at the Oak Ridge Wind, Solar and Biofuel camp, which was held at ORAU's Center for Science Education.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Few middle school students can say they built wind turbines, took a tour of the world’s largest super computer and learned how to create biofuel, all during one week of their summer break. But for two groups of students who participated in the Oak Ridge Wind, Solar and Biofuel camps held at ORAU’s Center for Science Education July 9-22, these activities were just part of a week filled with learning and fun.

 This year, two separate camps were offered on consecutive weeks. The first was a day camp, sponsored by ORAU and ORNL, and was open to local middle school students from the greater Oak Ridge area.
The second was an overnight camp, sponsored by ORAU, ORNL and the Appalachian Regional Commission, and was also a week in length. This camp hosted students from 12 Appalachian states.

“Students’ excitement toward the subject of science seems to increase when they are given the opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences,” said Marie Westfall, science education group manager for ORAU. “It is inspiring for students to meet and speak with scientists who work in the field on a daily basis.”

Throughout the week, both camps featured hands-on activities focused on the topics of wind, solar and biofuels. Students in both camps also traveled to a variety of science-inspiring sites such as the Buffalo Mountain wind turbines, ORNL where they saw the supercomputer and EVEREST (the visualization PowerWall for the supercomputer), and the University of Tennessee Gardens.

Students in each camp were split into three teams: solar, wind and biofuels. Each team, with the help of their instructor, researched and completed a project based on their assigned topic. Students who studied solar energy built solar-powered vehicles, while those in the wind group designed and produced wind turbines out of pipe. The biofuels group studied, created and then tested their own biofuel. 
Closing ceremonies for both camps were held at the end of each week, where students were given the opportunity to present their projects and information learned to family and friends.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a unique federal-state partnership established by Congress in 1965 to bring Appalachia into the mainstream of the American economy. Through development of the 3,090 mile Appalachian Development Highway System and a range of development programs in areas such as education, training, health care, telecommunications, entrepreneurship, job creation and basic infrastructure, ARC programs help reduce isolation and improve the lives and economic opportunities of the 24 million people living in 420 counties across 13 states that make up Appalachia.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Media Contacts

Pam Bonee
Work: 865.576.3146
Cell: 865.603.5142

Wendy West
Work: 865.576.0028
Cell: 865.207.7953