Cascade Brook students learn energy lessons at UMF

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FARMINGTON —  Fourth grade students from Cascade Brook Elementary School stopped for a mindful moment Tuesday before taking a tour of the Biomass Central Heating plant at the University of Maine at Farmington.

“Focus on learning about what is going on in our town,” teacher Sarah Carlson told them.

The students, part of approximately 100 fourth graders, spent most of the day at UMF exploring hands-on science-based STEM activities, touring the biomass heating plant and purchasing recycled items from Everyone’s Resource Depot for lessons planned for Thursday, Carole Lee, associate professor of elementary science education at UMF, said.

As part of UMF’s annual Family Energy Week, students in Lee’s classes led the fourth graders through three workshop days of activities based on energy and ways to save energy.

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While helping the students learn more about energy, a standard mandated for fourth graders in Regional School District 9, the college students gained experience teaching science, Lee said. They also learned more about energy.

Activities were held April 6 at Cascade Brook School and centered on motion energy, electrical energy and STEM( science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities. 

Recycled items purchased Tuesday at Everyone’s Resource Depot on the UMF campus will help students build a car that can travel up a ramp and build a windmill that can lift a cup filled with pennies during activities held Thursday at Cascade Brook School, Lee said.

On Tuesday, it was about learning from the individual stations set up in North Dining Hall and manned by Lee’s students and the campus Biomass Heating Plant completed in 2016.

An aging boiler system that consumed 390,000 gallons of oil was converted to a Biomass Central Heating Plant Jason Beckler, mechanical manager of the plant, told the students.

Now a two-story high dual boiler that uses woodchips, with a propane backup, heats and provides hot water for 23 large buildings on campus. The boiler has the potential to heat 150-200 homes on its own, he said.

As students watched a video presentation in the plant’s educational room, Beckler spoke of the efficiency and cleanliness of the new system.

Hot water at 200-degrees is carried across two miles of underground pipes on campus, he said.

Hard wood chips are purchased from local foresters within a 50-mile radius.

Once burned, a filtration system called an Electrostatic Precipitator cleans the discharge so only water is emitted from the stack in to the air, he said. The precipitator does the cleaning with a little lightening action amounting to 70,000 volts. A home runs on 120-volts, he said.

 An Environmental Protection Agency review last fall revealed the system was emitting less particle matter than EPA standards, he said.

The electrical costs are not enough to affect the 10-year payback on the $11 million plant, Beckler told the students.

abryant@sunmediagroup.net

Danielle Bedard, a University of Maine at Farmington student teacher in Sarah Carlson’s class at Cascade Brook School, left, and fourth graders tour the UMF Biomass Central Heating Plant Tuesday.

Fourth grade students from Cascade Brook School and teacher Sarah Carlson gather in front of a two-story boiler during a tour of the Biomass Central Heating Plant at the University of Maine at Farmington Tuesday.

Jason Beckler, mechanical manager of the Biomass Central Heating Plant at the University of Maine at Farmington, tells fourth grade students from Cascade Brook School about the heating system before they tour the plant.

Jason Beckler, mechanical manager of the Biomass Central Heating Plant at the University of Maine at Farmington, tells fourth grade students from Cascade Brook School about the heating system Tuesday before they tour the plant.

Fourth grade students from Cascade Brook School listen to UMF students Destiny Merrill, left, and Kristin Cobleigh, right, during one of several presentations on energy set up in North Dining Hall at the University of Maine at Farmington Tuesday for UMF’s annual Family Energy Week.

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