Many thanks to Ben White, an architect and graduate student at UC Davis for recently orga­niz­ing such an incred­i­ble day for our mid­dle school students!
The day started with a dis­cus­sion with Jeff Kessler, a chemical engineer and doctoral student study­ing transportation issues related to sustainable development. He started off by demonstrating how magnets and batteries can be used to create a simple electric motor – this is basically the same type of motor used in electric cars!
We then spoke about dif­fer­ent kinds of fuel to exam­ine what the different challenges with each type are, includ­ing coal, nat­ural gas, hydro­gen cells, bio­fuels, etc. We also discussed new technologies that are being devel­oped, and the potential impact they can have on trans­porta­tion, from the hyper­loop to selfdriving cars. It was fascinating to hear about how peo­ple are work­ing to decrease emis­sions in transportation!

Ben White then spoke to us about the Solar Decathlon project. Every two years, groups from colleges all around the world get together in Irvine, California. They bring with them zero net energy houses they have designed and built (they literally ship the houses there!). Ben explained that the team at UC Davis has a new goal this year: build a zeronet energy house that is also lowcost. He explained that UC Davis, being an agricultural college, is very aware of the eco­nomic chal­lenges faced by agricultural work­ers. They want to build houses that would serve to improve the qual­ity of life of this pop­u­la­tion. It was amaz­ing to see the sociological effects that such work can have! Finally, we were able to visit the Honda Smart Home – a hightech solar house built as part of an experiment and located in the heart of the largest zero net energy community in the world!

 

HondaSmartHouse JuniorHighStudents

 

 

 

We then had a special treat: Eric Anderson, mechanical engineer and doctoral student studying the efficiency of wind turbines, gave us a tour of UC Davis’ wind tunnel! This is where scientists can do actual experiments to study how to improve wind turbines, rather than just using computer models. Eric engaged us in a fascinating discussion of different types of energy, and the particular advantages of using wind as a source of energy.

Did you know that it takes 150 gallons of water to power one household for one month using natural gas?!? Imagine how much more water would be available to our drought-stricken state if we used solar (average of 20 gallons a month per household) or wind (0 gallons a month per household).