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Bridging the gap between concept and concrete

Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.

There are some who will ask the question, “When would I ever use algebra in real life?” For those students in Brigitte Gudz's Power and Energy I class at Madison County High School (MCHS), the answer to that often-asked question would be “just about daily.” Part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum at MCHS, the Power and Energy I class introduces students to the power industry and gives the students the opportunity to use concepts learned in algebra and geometry classes and apply them to “real life” situations. “One hope I have is that participating in this class will help the students in their other math classes,” said Gudz.

Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo by Rick Patrick, February 6, 2018 MCHS Power and Energy instructor Brigitte Gudz (left) assists MCHS students Roderick Williams (center) and Joseph Jackson (right) connect their hydro-electric plant prior to testing.
Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo by Rick Patrick, February 6, 2018 Power and Energy instructor Brigitte Gudz helps students open a computer program that will track how much electricity is generated by their “mini” hydro-electric plant. Pictured, from left to right, are: Zarion Prester, Elijah Hunt, Ryan Weaver and Gudz.

Previously, students in this class built a DC electric motor and picked up weights with the motor in order to determine horsepower. Currently, students in the class are designing and building a “mini” hydro-electric plant. In a small group setting, students have designed and built turbines with blades and motors. The students run water over the blades of the turbine, which drives a motor, which then generates electricity. It is the exact same concept that provides electrical power to thousands of customers across the country from hydro-electric dams such as the Hoover Dam and many others. In building and designing their mini hydro-electric generators, the students learn that small details such as a screw holding the turbine blades in place being loose can cause the entire operation to fail. “How often do I let them fail? Quite a lot,” said Gudz with a smile. “That's a big part of the process.” According to Gudz, the students learn about the design process and develop problem-solving skills, which is achieved through much trial and error. On the practical side, Gudz hopes the students are exposed to areas of interest that could lead to opening career paths for the students. “Some students come in and they learn that they have a love for the design process, which could open other avenues for them,” said Gudz. In addition, the students in the class are  learning to apply mathematical formulas in order to determine practical matters such as the water velocity running their generators. That information is helpful in determining how efficiently electricity is being generated. “These really are 'real world' situations,” said Gudz.

The Power and Energy classes are possible due to assistance from Duke Energy and the Tri-County Electric Cooperative. In addition to classwork, the students have taken trips to the Challenger Learning Center, in Tallahassee and Duke Energy's solar energy farm in Perry. A possible trip to the hydro-electric plant in Ellijay, Ga. is being considered.

February has been designated as CTE month. In recognition of this, Greene Publishing, Inc. will feature a different CTE program every week during the month.

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