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Crowdfunding success for 4th-grader solar-powered classroom bid


March 27, 2013

North Carolina 4th-grade students have raised enough funds on Kickstarter to allow their classroom to go off-grid

North Carolina 4th-grade students have raised enough funds on Kickstarter to allow their classroom to go off-grid

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After looking into the pros and cons of nine methods of electricity production (including coal, geothermal, biomass, and solar), a group of 9 and 10 year-olds from Central Park School for Children in Durham, North Carolina decided that their classroom should be powered using only energy from the sun. They hit Kickstarter at the beginning of this month with a modest funding goal of just US$800 to help finance the installation of a small PV panel array – a target that was smashed in less than a day.

With the help of their teacher, Aaron Sebens, the 4th-grade students researched system components and requirements that would allow their classroom to go off-grid.

"We used a Killawatt meter to test how much electricity each appliance in our classroom used and realized we could make our classroom off the grid with a few changes, such as changing from fluorescent to LED lights and changing our desktop computers to laptops," Sebens told Gizmag.

The crowdfunding community grabbed hold of the project almost as soon as it went live on March 5 and just kept throwing money at it. At the close of the funding campaign just over two weeks later, the class project had attracted nearly $6,000 in pledges – enough to pay for a larger-than-planned 1.4 kW PV panel array and a 500-watt wind turbine.

"Our system is a hybrid wind/solar that will generate 1.5 - 2 kW," said the teacher. "Our classroom can run off a 0.5 kW system. We're working with some local electricians and solar installers to help us set up our system so it will be off the grid and then when we get through all the red tape with the power company, it will be grid tied so we can sell the extra electricity back."

Any cash generated from the system will be directed into education projects at the school and local community that relate to renewable energy.

At the time of writing, the students are enjoying spring break. When class resumes in a couple of weeks, the final plans will be discussed and the installation will begin.

The video below shows the students describing how the system will work.

Source: Aaron Sebens' class

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

The sad thing is these kids will be in the next room before this project is complete. they will never learn how worthless a PV installation is. What a serious waste of money and human energy.

Michael Mantion

Michael, why do you say that? Why is a PV installation a waste of money and human energy?

Marc 1

Unless you are someplace where fuel is really expensive Solar electric is expensive. Durham, North Carolina does not fit, but an elementary school classroom at least presumably only uses power when the sun is up. Somebody is going to have to clean the solar panels regularly; somehow I do not think it is going to be the kids. One big hail storm and the solar collectors are toast.


As an owner of a mid-sized household PV installation (3kw) - it was the best investment I have made yet. Some people like Michael may choose to believe what they like, but PV works, and is cost effective.

Ian McIntosh

Ian, I have been watching solar for years. Todays solar installations are nothing like those of 20 years ago, wich is where a great many people established their opinions.

As far as hail storm damage to solar panels I haven't seen that weakness in solar since the 1980's. Material science has increased the durability of transparent materials greatly in the last 20 years. If this class is located in a place that regularly gets golfball plus sized hail that would be a question to ask the manufacturer. "How resistant is your product to hail damage?" and a secondary enclosure would be warranted if the panels are expected to recieve that kind of abuse regularly.

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