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Ask Slashdot: Classroom Eco-Projects Suited To Alaska? 157

First time accepted submitter shortyadamk writes "I just started a new job where I will have to visit many high school science classes and have the students participate in 1-3 day projects regarding sustainable energy and environmental sciences (in order to promote the regional universities' programs). I've looked at a number of the boxed projects available online and many of them are solar projects; my biggest issue with that is that we are in rural Alaska and much of the time I'll be visiting classes will be in the winter (when we have very little sunlight — and even if we did it would be too cold to go and play in). I'm curious if anyone has any ideas or suggestions for demonstrations and projects that can be done in the classroom and do not require sunlight. One other catch is that the project has to be small enough to fit in a suitcase or plastic tote; we don't have any roads connecting the villages so I will have to fly the project from school to school with me."
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Ask Slashdot: Classroom Eco-Projects Suited To Alaska?

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  • Everyone bring your rifles to class tomorrow. Billy, you're excused as usual.
  • Biofuel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:22AM (#37316320)

    Heat some fresh wood chips in a test tube with a gas burner. Transfer the liquid to a small distiller (the kids already know this one from their dad's shed) and collect the burnable methanole fraction. Use it for a direct methanole fuel cell an charge a RC car.

    • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:33AM (#37316480) Homepage Journal

      It's been a while since I learned about Alaska, but don't they have significant methane trapped in peat moss? That could be a good tie in to the methanole fuel.

      Another option would be to get a miniaturized steam engine. People may think they are antiquated, but steam is what generates almost all of the electricity in this country. The heat can come from geo-thermal, nuclear, solar salts, coal, etc... but it all does the same thing: boil water.


      • by Sleepy ( 4551 )

        While frozen land has plenty of sequestered carbon in the form of methane and peat.. the poster was asking about "eco" projects, which is quite opposite from your answer. You may have as well suggested an eco project based on drilling for oil. :-) Releasing all that trapped methane and carbon is the -last- thing humanity needs (although as the planet warms... it may release all of it anyways... the feedback loop danger that we're ignoring).

        Regarding the poster's question, I believe Stirling engines work in

      • Living in Alaska myself, my first thought was perhaps a miniature biomass CHP(Combined Heat&Power) utilizing a stirling engine.

        Basically, you burn wood, the heat drives a small stirling engine that generates a few watts, with the waste heat recovered to help heat the home.

        20% electricity, 60% heat.

    • Re:Biofuel (Score:4, Interesting)

      by elfprince13 ( 1521333 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:09PM (#37316810) Homepage
      Mod this man up. The (solid) biofuel-oriented nonprofit I started here in VT began in a high school physics classroom. Don't just get the students involved in the science, get them involved in applying the science in the community. Home Thermal energy use (heating and cooling) is a much more accessible field to get budding environmentally minded scientists+engineers started in than the two "sexy" ones (transportation + electricity), but still takes up a similar proportion of the total energy pie, and I suspect even more than the other two given the locale. Biomass (densified or gasified) makes for a great classroom project. Passive cooling also works well in climates like VT and Alaska, but to pull that off requires a much larger scale than works well in a classroom. You could still do something with insulation and learning about R-values though.
      • I should mention that my experience with classroom eco-projects (in a rural northern state) landed our group the state Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention, and resulted in one of my classmates receiving the prestigious Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership, and produced a 501(c)3 that has received ~$80,000 in state and federal funding.
        • Of course you must keep in mind that in the Arctic the available biofuels are the fat from whales,walrus, seal, bears and caribou.

      • by xixax ( 44677 )

        Yeah, set up a digester that takes biodegradable material and generates methane. Should be cheap enough to leave a plastic tub or three at each school so they can continue to observe/monitor and look at the effects of input material, temperature and the like on the rate of gas prodduction.


        • Yeah, set up a digester that takes biodegradable material and generates methane. [...] and look at the effects of input material, temperature and the like on the rate of gas pro[d]duction.

          A biodigester that needs heat to keep it running ... has probably already failed at it's aim of being eco-friendly. And given the economies of scale and of heat production/ heat loss, to get sufficient scale to have the digester carry on working through an Arctic winter, it would probably have to be a lot bigger than can b

    • Since this is Alaska, where there's many sources of biomass, how about one of the umpteen Open Source stove projects, some of them need only a few tin cans. []

  • Do the boxed solar projects actually require real sun in order to be educational? I mean, would the principles be evident to the students if you shone an electric light at solar panels indoors?

    There's an awful lot of sunlight in Alaska during the summer, and the students should have long enough memories to know that.

  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:24AM (#37316342) Homepage Journal

    Get an LED light and some tiny starter pots and seeds.

    I can help you out with that.

    • For bonus points, how about powering them from a small wind turbine like this one? []

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        LED growing lights, while low-power, are not all THAT low-power. They are also very picky about their power input.

        • Use a battery to buffer the input and a high-efficiency voltage regulator to modulate it correctly. Underpowering them won't have any ill-effects. Use a switching voltage regulator to maintain a 4V power supply and a current limiting resistor. Optionally, you could use a big honking capacitor (e.g. I have some 20,000 uF caps that were salvaged from a large UPS) instead of a battery.

          Most importantly, each component in this system provides a teaching opportunity.

          • by Khyber ( 864651 )

            4V supply would kill the red diodes which typically operate at 2.4-2.6V. The blue ones would survive having a typical 3.4-3.6V operative voltage.

            • I was thinking white, though now that I think about it, red and blue make more sense for grow lights. Still, the idea stands sound, even if the details need fine-tuning.

    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      Get an LED light and some tiny starter pots and seeds.

      I can help you out with that.

      I think the students might smoke the pot, so you might want to bring a lot.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:25AM (#37316348) Journal
    Obviously you could pack up a small turbine and multimeter and take it outside and show the kids the power generation. You might even contact the Alaskan wind industries [] asking for a kit to raise awareness in schools.

    Another thought is thermoelectrics via Seebeck and Peltier Effects []. I think you can pick up cheap little thermoelectric kits [] that are horribly inefficient (10%?) but if you could coordinate with the school, you might have access to a heat exhaust or something nearby where you could set up the device and show the kids that you can harvest some of the energy coming off the exhausts. Failing that, you could boil a pot of water and position it over it? If it's cold as hell outside, you might even be able to just push it up against a window?

    Really, it's just be important to get the kids thinking critically about where energy transfer is lost and how it can be harvested. Most importantly I would stress the efficiency analysis so they realize why your little device isn't the answer to all their problems (but with enough research and knowledge they might find a better solution). You know, give them a little lesson on initial cost versus return and figure out how long it would take your device sitting there at that external temperature for you to fully recoup your cost.
    • by bgat ( 123664 )

      I think you can pick up cheap little thermoelectric kits [] that are horribly inefficient (10%?)...

      ALL Peltier coolers are horribly inefficient. 10% efficiency is a pretty decent one, in fact.

    • by slim ( 1652 )

      Obviously you could pack up a small turbine and multimeter and take it outside and show the kids the power generation.

      The kind of temperatures you'd be talking in the winter, I wouldn't want to take kids outside any more than I had to.

      • My wife teaches High School science in Anchorage, if its above 10 F they can go outside for school work.

        In the winter, the dark is more of a hinderance to working outside than the cold.

        • by slim ( 1652 )

          Anchorage is quite a way south though. It routinely goes way below 2F is the average *high* in January. -13 is the average low.

          Lovely in summer though!

          • Anchorage is more moderate because of proximity to the sea.

          • by slim ( 1652 )

            I meant to say that IN FAIRBANKS it routinely goes way below. That's where 2F is the average *high* in January. -13 is the average low.

            As you say, it's warmer in Anchorage.

            I assumed since the OP is flying around, he'd be in the wild north. (Although Anchorage is hardly Manhattan :) )

      • With a small turbine you don't need to go outside. You could use a fan to simulate the wind, or simply turn it manually. Or have the kids blow really, really hard. :oD

    • Also ask on

      That's where a lot of renewable energy people hang out. (Among them is "Wild In Alaska", who built a wind turbine out of a scrap garbage disposal motor to power his pickup camper.)

      Obvious choices for Alaska are:
      - Wind power.
      - Thermoelectric on exhaust from wood-burning house heating systems.
      - Heat engines ditto. Sterling or steam. (Note that these are mainly experimental at this point. No commercial systems are available as far as I know for generati

      • by slim ( 1652 )

        Main available energy resources are wood, crude oil, natural gas, and animal fat.

        Of course, efficiently burning wood from properly managed forestry, is green energy. The tree you grow to replace the one you burned, fixes equivalent CO2 to that which you released in the burning.

        The same could be said of animal fat, I suppose, depending on the energy sources used in rearing the animal.

      • Why are the Alaska schools hosting and promoting this? Alaska is NOT a good site for renewable energy:

        Sure it is, properly managed. It's just not the same solutions as for the lower 49.

        Solar works well in the summer, 23 hours of sunlight can do that. In the winter, my current choice would be biomass fired CHP.

  • by bgat ( 123664 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:25AM (#37316360) Homepage

    I recall seeing somewhere a stationary bike apparatus, e.g. "treadmill", which triatheletes use in the off-season. It's a frame that you put your own bicycle onto, and then pedal away like there is no tomorrow.

    The frame I saw folded up into something pretty small and easily portable. I don't know if bicycles are as popular in Alaska as they are in the lower 48, but if so then perhaps a student would volunteer their own for a few days during your presentations.

    You'd want to modify the apparatus so that it could be used to power a lamp, or something else that you would likely find at each destination. In fact, purpose-built treadmills-as-power-generators probably exist.

    A nice side-effect of such an apparatus is that it tangibly illustrates just how much power even a small lamp consumes, considering how hard students need to pedal to generate the electricity required. You could demonstrate that CFL lights use less electricity by demonstrating that they don't have to pedal as hard to light it, and could show that the excess electricity of the incandescent lamp is converted to heat with a simple non-contact, IR thermometer like those sold at Radio Shack. Then swap the lamp for an X-Box, etc. etc.

    Teaching students to use less electricity is an even better goal than teaching them new ways to generate it.

  • In Alaska, would solar be a good choice for sustainable energy? Or would wind and tidal (hydro) power be more relevant? I think a small wind turbine would be a better choice for your demo.
  • Simplest would be a laptop with the right software. I don't know what might be available software-wise, but a little research should turn up something.

    Is there a reason you can't use a grow light instead of solar power from the sun?

    For an elaborate solution, assuming you have internet access from the remote sites... Do a 'Silent Running' type Biosphere somewhere sunny, with robots that can be remotely controlled to perform tasks as needed in this biosphere. The students would love it and you would get go

    • by bgat ( 123664 )

      Is there a reason you can't use a grow light instead of solar power from the sun?

      Because he has only 2-3 days per site. Nothing will sprout while he's there, which means either a lame presentation, expendables that he has to leave at each site, and/or additional work for the teacher after he leaves.

      Also, at the high school level I don't think you'd hold someone's interest with a heat lamp and a bean sprout in a styrofoam cup. Well, you MIGHT hold their interests, but probably not for reasons that the school's administration would sanction. :)

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:30AM (#37316422)

    You have them build them, check out the results, and then you can say "Now you know why solar isn't a panacea for our energy needs."

    • by slim ( 1652 )

      Firstly - don't expect high school kids to know what "panacea".

      Secondly - don't teach kids that they should go looking for panacaea.

      Solar power is no help to Alaskans in the winter. In the summer though, many homes and businesses could run on their own solar panels. It wouldn't eliminate their reliance on fossil fuels -- but it would reduce it.

      • by halivar ( 535827 )

        I knew what a panacea was when I was in middle school.

        Then again, I did get beaten up a lot...

    • by MaXintosh ( 159753 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:35PM (#37317896)
      I live in Fairbanks. It gets dark here. And yet... solar works? I have first hand experience on this issue. You see, just because there isn't as much light doesn't mean that there's no light. Unless you go really far north, there'll still be a few hours of sunlight (albeit at an extreme angle). While this might not seem like a lot, it appreciably reduces your diesel consumption. And most places in the state have fantastic, reliable wind (Fairbanks not so much).
      And then summer comes, and the issue with solar is dumping all the extra energy you're collecting because you're usually collecting an excess of your needs.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about an infrared camera and those foam things you stick behind AC wall sockets?

    Take the IR camera outside to see where the biggest losses are.

    • This sounds really good, actually. Most of the rural state has massive heat loss problems, coupled with high costs of heating. Who would have thought that houses designed by the BIA (or whoever) for Arizona would suck on the tundra? Surely no one could have seen that one coming...
  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:32AM (#37316476)

    here's one: []
    You can google up a bunch of alternatives, and buy simple kits if your budget runs to that. But the ingredients are cheap, you could save money kitting up a bunch yourself.

  • Genetics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mensa Babe ( 675349 ) * on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:33AM (#37316490) Homepage Journal
    I suggest diving into the synthetic biology movement. Take a look at the BioBricks Foundation []. Search the Registry of Standard Biological Parts []. Maybe there is something missing that you might contribute. Join iGEM [], the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. It is a worldwide synthetic biology competition aimed mostly at undergraduate university and high school students. Some people there are doing amazing eco-friendly projects. And don't be scared by the recent anti-science hysteria. Genetic engineering in general and synthetic biology in particular is not as hard as people tend to think. It doesn't even has to be too serious. For example, in 2006 the MIT team engineered E. coli to produce a wintergreen scent during exponential phase and a banana scent during stationary phase, known as the "banana-fart" bacteria. Some kids are engineering just amazing DNA to produce bacteria that help to digest pollution, or converts sunlight into energy that is easy to use. There is a lot to be done in synthetic biology and both BioBricks and iGEM are directed towards young people who want to experiment and collaborate, without the need to synthesise everything from scratch. You don't need sunlight to do that and you don't need expensive equipment any more. These days people are sending DNA by email and change it like it was just a computer program - which it is in a sense, but it is software that builds hardware. This is truly amazing stuff and I believe this the future of fixing our planet. We have to help mother nature. And this is the most optimal way to do it - from the ground up. iGEM and BioBricks is a great way for young students to dive into it.
  • that you are pushing a technology that has flaws and you can't demo it because of the flaws. Maybe isn't the solve all problems solution that some think it is, unless you live in a sunny place. Change to something that is relevant for the area, not something that they will see has no impact on them.
  • by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:44AM (#37316596)
    to drive your solar panel! Problem solved. Then teach them about the Law of Thermodynamics and the folly of perpetual motion machines in history. Then talk about the data from: [], and the infeasibility of any energy source to satisfy the hungry maw of exponential energy consumption. Then you might consider a small wind turbine (driven by a fan, of course--no I'm serious, you could use the fan as a prop and explain what happens when you reverse the energy path), and touch on geothermal and tidal power. Tidal power is something you could make your own prop for (just add water on-site and be the wave machine).

    Still think the Sun Lamp idea is funniest and quite realistic given the craze to trade food for energy and other such nonsensical ideas.
  • Uphill challange (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:45AM (#37316606)

    Your problem is actually the countries problem. Green Energy works good in some spots and not all. Solar, Wind, Tidal, Hydroelectric, all have good and bad locations. More portable energy, Coal, Oil, Nuclear. Can be planned for and allocated and distributed anywhere for 24/7 usage, however tends to carry a larger environmental cost (Or just crazy people who fear it blindly like for Nuclear).

    I remember in school an important lesson that most people do not get about environmentalism. Everything you do has a trade-off. How many fish die in those Tidal/Hydroelectric power. How many trees will you need to knock down for you Solar/Wind farm and what do do about night/no wind... There isn't any golden ticket for free energy they all come with a cost. Right now we are seeing the Fossil Fuels have been giving off there costs for too long and is making the problem worse.
    You should be teaching those kids about trade offs, not some magical future tech that will solve all our problems. Explain how to generate electricity how we use different types of energy. How usually when changing one energy to an other there is often a loss to a different form of energy that isn't useful. How to store energy, batteries, flywheels, springs... Heck show them when you stretch a rubber-band it gets warmer, and if you let it contract it gets cooler.
    You need to train kids to be think clearly environmentalism not envionuts and go out wasting more resources to stop all the evils that come up.

    • I remember in school an important lesson that most people do not get about environmentalism. Everything you do has a trade-off.

      Hush. He's supposed to plant anti-capitalistic dreams in these children's heads, not give them actual facts and numbers.

      If you show that the most efficient energy source is also the cheapest, then the kids may realize that subsidizing wind farms with tax money depletes our resources more than traditional forms!

      The core of the environmental movement today is making Americans to feel guilty for their existence, and then using this guilt to extract money from them. Al Gore has done it by selling carbon credi

      • If you show that the most efficient energy source is also the cheapest...

        The cheapest energy source is the one where you can push most of the cost to someone else. Preferably, either a future someone else, or someone else in another country.

    • This is exactly why we should be pouring all this ill-conceived "green" energy funding into fusion. Wind energy just feels so absurd knowing that you could cover texas in turbines and still not come close to meeting our energy demand.

    • by Sleepy ( 4551 )

      >(Or just crazy people who fear it blindly like for Nuclear).

      Unnecessary trolling. If you think nuclear is feared without merit, you are not being honest with anyone including yourself.

      I am aware of the pro-nuclear argument for the last few decades that failure problems are ALL due to "those old reactors, not the new designs". Allowing that argument to slide, you still have a basic fact that neither the original design manufacturers NOR the investors are interested in paying to upgrade or refit those old

      • I never said that there isn't problems with nuclear, or that is is free of trade offs.
        But really compared to fossil fuel sources Nuclear is much cleaner and safer, and it is also portable as it can be placed anywhere.

        The problem is when someone says how about nuclear energy, you get a bunch of uninformed morons fearing a nuclear blast, or it spewing out radiation killing everyone withing a 3 mile radius, thus preventing the nuclear plant from being created and either being replaced by or prolonging the oper

  • by Chuckles08 ( 1277062 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:53AM (#37316680)
    My suggestion is a field trip to Costa Rica...:-)
  • Random ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @11:56AM (#37316702) Homepage

    Rocket stoves and fuel efficiency.

    A thermal camera along with a study of various insulators such as foams, plastic, types of glass panes.

    Make some kind of DIY motor that runs on snow. Should work given temperature differences. And has a nice "But that's impossible!" factor.

    DIY paper recycling.

    DIY plastic bag recycling by boiling them in a pan. You can make nice strong plastic this way. Heck bring a mold and make some kind of knick knack they get to take home. Be sure it has a logo and website stamped on it somewhere.

    Turn a small DC motor into a wind-powered generator.

  • Maybe something to do with organic batteries? I don't have any hands on experience, but they do exist, and some don't involve toxic chemistry. I sort of vaguely think there are even some very minor practical applications in some places. At the very least, you should be able to gin up enough power to light an LED or spin a small motor from a kit you can carry in your suitcase. Maybe you can even generate/store power from/in something cobbled together from local materials at the school.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:19PM (#37316912)

    1-3 day projects regarding sustainable energy and environmental sciences

    Most/all of the answers have been mostly boxed engineering demos, not actual science projects.

    The most obvious science project I can think of is gathering a whole bunch of snow, melting it, and figuring out what is inside it other than H2O.

    I have done this, and there is a whole heck of a lot of pollen, and all manner of strange dusts under a microscope. Also just plain ole dirt. And its fun to "core sample" once you've got multiple snowfalls. Its easy to see distinct layers.

    I'm thinking your suitcase and budget are not big enough for chemical analysis but a Really good trinocular microscope with video output to a TV is probably realistic. Add some ruled counting slides (forget the proper terminology, sorry) and some buckets / beakers to melt the water, maybe a tiny centrifuge and test tubes to concentrate "whatever"... Get yourself a wide collection of variable pore size filter papers and the chemistry gear to do vacuum filtration thru the various sizes.

    Final advice, don't collect the yellow snow.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Get yourself a wide collection of variable pore size filter papers and the chemistry gear to do vacuum filtration thru the various sizes.

      Whoops forgot the last line. Then take a couple drops of each filtration level and incubate some agar petri dishes and see what if anything grows. Bacteria, molds, possibly nothing. Those cultured plates also look interesting under the microscope.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I live in Maine and insulation is a big thing here in the winter. Buy one of these

    Go around the school, or class room and look for thermal leaks, ask students to find ways to solve these leaks. You can even map out areas that are most common to thermal leaks.

  • Maybe you could create a shoe box sized demo refrigerator that had a copper plate on the back and insulation on the front and sides such that the copper plate side would be exposed to the outside air to keep food cold while allowing the interior heat not to escape due to the insulation in the front and sides of the mini fridge.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      or you could just set it in a box outside

      • "or you could just set it in a box outside"

        The kids probably do that from time to time in Winter at home. We fairly routinely stash stuff in the snow on the table on the deck in Winter and Vermont is warmer than most villages in rural Alaska..

  • I live in Maine and insulation is a big thing here in the winter. Buy one of these [] Go around the school, or class room and look for thermal leaks, ask students to find ways to solve these leaks. You can even map out areas that are most common to thermal leaks.
  • Ive had good luck with demonstrations in Alaska of Sterling Engines and other external combustion technologies. They are quite popular for Alaskan audiences since the majority of the state has no central power grid, and in many cases no traditional running water, but will have a wood fire burning most of the year. Sterling engines for power generation, or even simple circulation systems that can be used to heat water for bathing (we filled a canoe with water and rigged a pedal power pump to circulate the
  • Since your flying from village to village your probably looking at southeast and/or a Aleutian islands. One thing those kinds of places have in abundance is waves. Perhaps you could find or create a wave generator demonstration kit.

  • Help explain why the 2010 oil spill disappeared fairly quickly in 85 degree Gulf of Mexico water and slowly in 40 degree Prince William Sound water in 1989. Maybe the ambient microbes matter too.
  • Congratulations on your new global-citizen-indoctrination job. I'm sure you'll do well, but you first need to understand that the "eco-project" that you're expected to present is NOT supposed to teach science or critical thinking or anything along those lines - instead, it should emphasize the importance of the students' sacrifices for the common good, reliance on appointed "experts" for the amount of sacrifice required, and their total submission to the global leaders for guidance in every aspect of their

  • I would amplify some of the comments suggesting a non-engineering solution by saying that, if you have not already done so, you might capitalize on some existing programs already extant in the state. Among these, there are or two LTER Schoolyard [] programs in Alaska. Schoolyard is the outreach and education component of the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network []. The Bonanza Creek LTER [] and their Schoolyard Program []is hosted at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and, although

  • Bring along digital voice recorders such as those used for dictation, a couple of laptops, plus digital still cameras, possible a small and cheap digital video camera. Get your students to interview the village elders about THEIR knowledge, and post the results to the web on your return. After all, these folks are part of a culture that survives in a hostile world right next door to Mars. Let them show and tell YOU what arctic science is all about.
  • There's always the project you can do with saline water and the LED.

    I suggest you do some research about it.

    The saline solution in several glasses creates a charge at the right temperature.

    Worked great for me several years ago lol

  • Surprised I am the first to mention it. Garbage reactors turn biological waste into either heat or natural gas. I think in the freezing cold of an alaskan winter nice reactor connected to heat exchanger or a gas burner would make everyone feel a bit bitter. The trouble is it takes a while to get the reaction going, if this is a one day project idea that might not work. A small reactor will fit in light aircraft when empty though.
  • Energy efficiency experiments would be especially relevant. If you're dealing with visiting students in the winter months, then an IR camera would be hugely relevant and rather cool to use: shine it at the walls and windows, see that the windows leak far more than the walls, and see that the walls don't equally protect against heat. While a good quality IR camera isn't particularly cheap, more and more utilities are purchasing them for their own energy efficiency programs (many times mandated by law), so
  • Have you looked at fuel cells. There are lost of educational fuel cell kits available. []
    • by nmonsey ( 785344 )
      There was a typo, it should read "There are lots of educational fuel cell kits available. "
  • One of the most needed technologies for regions beyond +-60 degrees latitude is long term
    stable and controllable heat reservoir storage.

    Knowing what kind and how much insulation to use to store a specific number of
    calories for an indefinite period of time is a major experiment.

    Also, what types of materials are best for storage of heat.

    If you can store heat. You can use it later.

  • I don't know if you can find this as a project "in a box", but ... As a 50 year plus resident of Alaska and someone that used to be involved with the oil industry and later alternative energy, I have always been fainated by the possibilities of the Sterling engine since first learing of it.

    Most seem to think of the Sterling as a "heat" engine, I've always looked at it as more of a tempurature differential situation. Not that difficult to find, even in Winter.

    You might also check out "Micro Combined Heat

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken