Welcome to Operation Rain or Shine
The Zayed Project has definitely taken on much more time in my day to day life here at Green School. In the past block I ran a class on batteries, in the hopes to create knowledge around how batteries operate and the feasibility of using them for a DIY Powerbank. I also integrated the Zayed Future Energy Prize project in our intensive project block, to the effect that students who were interested would be able to dedicate as much time as they liked to furthering our project.
Like any good project, we needed a team of people to meet regularly to work through what exactly the details would look like. It was agreed upon that we would need a project manager, somebody who could hold the team accountable to the milestones and ensure we are running on track. Sure a teacher such as myself could do it in a pinch, but the team agreed (thankfully) that I would focus on the learning experience, and ensuring students are integrated throughout. Hurray!
In our third meeting, we decided that we would need a name. In traditional brainstorm fashion, we listed ideas, words, concepts, and acronyms on the board until we started to see some similarities. Then Tony, a parent who is part of our core group, suggested “Operation Rain or Shine”. It was perfect. Not only did it fit our need to see this through regardless of roadblocks, but also connected strongly with our desire to grow our project towards a resilient microgrid concept that would be able to harness lots of energy in all seasons Indonesia has (rainy season and dry season).
This week I could feel our team humming with ideas and good vibes about the project. While we are dependent on the gym redesign which our school had planned, the concept has so many interesting connections. The notion of converting our gym into an energy hub is exciting. Kids running in and out of there, playing sport and challenging themselves is a great metaphor to the energy systems we plan to integrate into the structure. Water catchment in the rainy season, leading to micro-hydro pumps 20 meters below. Solar PV on the roof, with natural ventilation and lighting keeping the space functional and enjoyable to be in.
The fun ideas just kept rolling though. What if we could create interactive machines that pumped water to higher elevation, turning human kinetic energy into pumped storage? Or perhaps integrate our school’s behavior management system into a set of kinetic cycles which mist our collected rainwater onto a happier and cooler crowd of people? These are the types of ideas that will no doubt ignite the imaginations of our students, and make the whole project a fun and interactive part of what Operation Rain or Shine does.
The past week also saw us connecting internationally in many cases. We met with a group of graduate students from the TH Koln — University of Applied Sciences in Koln, Germany. We hope they will be able to help us integrate the systems our school has and provide support in making our data output something all schools can access as a living case study. Steve Bullock from the University of Bristol has also been by, and provided critical help in developing ideas of what kind of output we can expect, as well as working alongside our students to create an overview of the project using UAV footage.
That said, we also learned some really striking things about batteries in the HS course. After looking at the fundamental structure of a battery, we jumped forward to rechargeable batteries. We developed a new respect for the distance that humanity has come in battery technology, with the mass production of lithium ion batteries creating a mobile revolution. It also exposed us to the dangers of battery dismantling, and while taking apart laptop batteries for our class the students were ultra vigilant to any potential short circuit or ruptured cells, knowing what kind of chain reaction could result.
Following the collection of 50 viable 18650 L-ion cells we had a clearer idea of the scope of building a 10 kWh bank from used batteries. The waste produced would be a challenge to deal with, as would the danger if a student were to damage a cell. Furthermore, one of our goals in the project was to divert e-waste from the dumps through the reuse of these cells, and our investigations found heartening evidence that these batteries have a strong second hand market and are being used for portable power banks by many manufacturers in Indonesia. It completely makes sense… this is a country where resources are not wasted to the extent we see in other places.
We are now well underway in our revised project, and are excited to integrate more students across the school into this project. It was heartening to hear enthusiasm in my students’ voices when I asked them how they felt in being treated as key stakeholders and collaborators in this large project. “It is great”, one said, “it is a project that we can feel like we got a lot of say in.”