RUMFORD — Cindy Paine’s alternative education class was skeptical that a bunch of copper pipes, plywood and reflective material would really heat hot water.

But a test of the two solar panels the class finished building last week proved skepticism was off the mark.

“I thought it would leak, and it didn’t. I was surprised that it heated up the water,” said George Tuttle IV, a senior student from Mexico.

Paine said she took a class in solar panels, got the plans and decided that if she could build a solar panel, so could her students. The two panels will heat enough hot water for a family of four, she said.

They studied the plans, purchased and got donated materials, and put the two approximately 3- by 6-foot devices together. They tested it on a cloudy day.

In 15 minutes, the water temperature rose from 52 degrees to 90 degrees.

The project, and a couple more to follow, are part of the alternative energy unit Paine is teaching.

Anyone who would like a copy of the plans to build their own solar panels may contact Paine at the high school office at 364-4547.

The first two panels will be hooked into the boiler at Mountain Valley High School to add some energy for heating water.

The class was assisted by Andy Witham of Greene, who services the district’s boilers. He donated the copper piping and often helped guide the work.

In the next few days, the class will try to reduce the price — it would be about $500 for the two panels if all materials had to be purchased — by using black rubber hose instead of copper piping.

Then, the next major energy alternative project will begin.

Paine has plans for building a water wheel/windmill to try to harness the energy created by water flowing from a stream that runs across high school property and turn it into electricity.

Patrick Norwood, a senior from Rumford, is looking forward to the next project.

Paine has invited a representative from Brookfield Power to talk to the class about hydro power and to take a look at the plans for building the device.

In the experiment to capture both wind and water power, students will build an 8-foot turbine made of pieces of split PVC pipe attached to a bicycle wheel.

To catch the energy of the water, the device will be horizontal. For wind, it will be vertical. The class is looking for a motor housing to assist with the project.

The goal is to create enough electricity to fuel a 50- to 100-watt light bulb.

Stephen Jeselskis, a senior from Mexico, liked working on the solar panels.

“It was fun and different and hands-on work,” he said.

The two alternative energy projects were primarily funded by a $1,000 grant from the Oak Grove Foundation in South China.

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