Mankato

Students at Mankato West High School lead on energy-saving LED lighting project

Scarlets YES! team takes action with CERTs Seed Grant

Lighting up their school

 

Students at Mankato West High School participating in the Youth Eco Solutions (YES!) program will help reduce the electricity used to light school hallways by almost 50%. The Scarlets RetroLED the Hallways project was a tangible way for students to put their values into action and save serious energy for their school.

This summer school electricians installed 1,333 LED tube lights (15-watt) in place of the existing fluorescent bulbs (28-watt). The upgrade will save over $5,000 per year by reducing electricity used, and pay for itself in under 2 years.

 

The team decides its project for each year, I try to empower them to make a difference in their world. From investigating electricity use around the school, the YES! team found the most cost-effective reductions, one of which was common area lighting.

Eric Koser, Mankato West High School physics teacher and Scarlets YES! team advisor

YES! is a Minnesota youth program where teams of students from grades 7-12 organized in a school system work on annual projects to learn about clean energy, waste reduction, local foods, habitat restoration, or water quality. Physics teacher Eric Koser, who has been the Mankato West High School Scarlets YES! team advisor for 10 years shared the history of the RetroLED project.

“I have a bias towards doing, so as the team decides its project for each year, I try to empower them to make a difference in their world.” Thus, the team has frequently focused on their school implementing projects such as eliminating the use of plastics and styrofoam in the lunch room, recycling of food waste, or installing several hydration stations throughout the school to reduce use of disposable plastic bottles. 

 

In the 2011-2012 school year the student team first began measuring energy use both at school and at their homes with the school’s purchase of Kill-A-Watt meters. These meters plug in between an outlet and an appliance to measure and display electricity use. In the 2014-15 school year the YES! team followed up by focusing on energy again. “From investigating electricity use around the school, the YES! team found the most cost-effective reductions, one of which was common area lighting,” said Koser. The YES! team used their budget to replace the school’s hallway 32-watt fluorescent bulbs with 28-watt bulbs. It was a simple bulb swap that the students could do themselves. 

The team again took a break from energy to focus on other projects until the 2019-2020 season. By then the price of LED bulbs had decreased so much that replacement of the hallway fluorescent bulbs became cost-effective. In order to upgrade to LEDs though, an electrician was needed to remove the ballasts (an electronic component that regulates current to start the fluorescent bulbs). “In this case the CERTs Seed Grant, which can only be spent on labor, was a perfect fit to pay the electricians,” said Koser.

 

Bulb_Install_Gym_2020.jpg

 

Miranda Kubek, student member of the YES! team, shared her views on the importance of the LED upgrade. “Climate change can be an overwhelming subject, especially for someone my age. It will affect me, but I have no say. This project is tangible in reducing energy use at my school and showing others how they can make changes.” The team has prepared a presentation that they will be sharing with the student body at the start of the school year, describing the details of the project and providing tips students can use in their own lives to save energy and reduce their carbon footprint. Mirada shared “this project gave me the opportunity to identify changes I can make in my day-to-day life, and now that I have that knowledge, I can continue to do things in my adult life and my future.” 

Climate change can be an overwhelming subject, especially for someone my age. It will affect me, but I have no say. This project is tangible in reducing energy use at my school and showing others how they can make changes. This project gave me the opportunity to identify changes I can make in my day-to-day life, and now that I have that knowledge, I can continue to do things in my adult life and my future.

Miranda Kubek, Mankato West High School student and member of the Scarlets YES! team

Miranda said she will continue to participate in the YES! program, as the team is already brain-storming for the new year’s project. She feels she has learned a lot about teamwork and project management. “I’m not the only one who planned this,” she said “we had to work together, to understand the needed steps, and to make connections to find resources.” Team advisor, Eric Koser called YES! a “gem that people aren’t aware of” and encouraged other schools to consider starting a team. Koser continued, “This project helped the students think about the energy used and then make a physical change with impact. Students don’t realize the power they have, and even if they choose a different academic area of study, the program builds a mindset of how much influence they can have on the environment.”

Mankato West won first place in the Solar Schools Video Contest!

 

About the video:

"Our goal with this video was to show our district why Mankato West students support solar energy. As a team, we've worked on many clean energy projects in the past, and are excited to take on solar as the next step in our journey to zero net emissions. Throughout the project, we worked together to script, shoot, and edit a video that captures just how important this issue is to us. We wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of our school and student body, especially all the students who provided testimonials about why solar energy matters to them!"

"It's time to bring the sun into our school! School roofs are under utilized and can be great places for solar panels! Nothing would make more sense now than to source our electricity directly from the sun to brighten our education! Scarlets are for solar. It's the brighter choice for our future!"

Project Snapshot

 
  • Location: Mankato West High School, Mankato, MN
  • Activity: LED installation in school hallways
  • Technology: Upgrade 477 fixtures (1,333 bulbs) from 28W fluorescent to 15W LED tube lights
  • Total Cost: $8,624.51 materials and $5,951.20 in labor for a total $13,624.51
  • Southeast CERT Seed Grant: $5,000
  • Estimated Energy Saved: Estimated 63,271 kWh/yr or $5,951.20 per year at $.081/kwh

In the news: KEYC TV - Mankato West High School and its YES! Team receive grant to help reduce electricity usage
Mankato West High School and its Youth Eco Solutions Team recently received grant funding to help reduce electricity usage in the school. YES! Team member Evan Quilling said he feels like he is making a difference. “I feel like I’m actually trying to make a change in our school, and I feel like I’m going to be able to hopefully create a domino effect," he said.

 
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