ACE Charter students design solar-powered pod to bring relief to disaster victims

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ACE Charter School teacher Gary Clifford and junior Lauren Clemenson stand next to a prototype of the ACE Pod, a 160-square-foot solar-powered structure designed by students to produce electricity and hot running water. The pod was entered in a contest that challenged students to solve problems using math and science. Students hope the pod can be used to bring power and clean water to disaster areas. © Iris Smoot/Acorn Newspapers
Students at ACE Charter High School in Camarillo were recently named semifinalists in the Samsung “Solve For Tomorrow” 2013 Education Contest. The students earned a prize package worth nearly $2,000.

The contest called for students to submit a class project that explores the question “How can science and math be used to improve your environment and community?”

The students, along with ACE construction technology teacher Gary Clifford, entered the school’s idea for an “ACE Pod” in the competition. The pod will be a studentbuilt, solar-powered hut with the ability to create electricity and convert moisture in the atmosphere into hot, running water.

The student-built pod will be a 10-by-16-foot shed with solar panels affixed to the roof. The panels create direct current, which a separate device converts to AC/DC current found in every household. The solar energy will also be used to power a dehumidifier, which will pull water from the air, while copper pipes collect and channel the water.

Clifford said students will spend the school year assembling the pod as a showcase for ACE Charter when guests visit the school.

“We wanted it to be a model for the community so that when they come in they can see the advances of solar technology,” Clifford said. “But then the students thought, ‘What if we could send one of these little pods out to disaster areas and have power?’So it kind of skyrocketed from there.”

Clifford submitted the students’ idea to Samsung in an essay that detailed the ACE Pod’s usefulness in disaster areas.

The concept advanced to the second round of the Samsung competition in November. As semifinalists, the school received a Samsung laptop, a camcorder and Adobe Premier Elements 11 video editing software.

“I felt like that was an accomplishment in itself for us to win the first round,” Clifford said. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is create an atmosphere at the school where the community will look at (the ACE Pod) and say, ‘Wow, I think this is a great thing that they’re doing; we want to send our students here.’”

Various students in other classes collaborated during the second round of the competition, which required the students to shoot, edit and star in a short film about the ACE Pod.

Shawn Jones, 17, edited the video entry with Clifford, using the editing software the school won.

“My favorite part about this project was I was able to learn another program that I wasn’t 100 percent familiar with,” Shawn said. “This was a new medium for me.”

Shawn said he plans to use his experiences at ACE to pursue a degree in entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

“It’s better to know how to use as many (software programs) as possible, so that way you’re not left in the dark if you’re ever forced to use it later on down the line,” Shawn said. “I think it’s great that I learned to use (the software) thoroughly.”

The video submission featured scenes from various disaster areas and three-dimensional drawings of the ACE Pod created by the students using AutoCAD design software.

The video’s narrator, 16-yearold ACE student Lauren Clemenson, said the ACE Pod will save lives by providing clean water to people in disaster areas.

“We believe no one should perish in a disaster situation due to lack of access to clean water or poor sanitation conditions,” she said. “Our school has an idea and that is the ACE Pod. By sending it to disaster relief areas we can save countless lives. We, the students at ACE Charter High, believe that the sun is the answer to sustaining future generations.”

Lauren said that entering the ACE Pod in the Samsung competition might give the idea the exposure it needs to become a useful tool in disaster zones.

“It was a lot of fun,” Lauren said of making the film. “I had a really good time knowing that what we want to do will get to somebody, and they’ll at least consider it because it will help people. It’s a really good idea.”

The students learned this week that their video submission was not chosen to advance to the next round of the Samsung competition, but they will continue constructing the ACE Pod.

ACE Charter High School Principal Ron Fisher said the students learned many valuable lessons from the competition.

“It makes them better, wellrounded people when they think about solving problems in the world around them and to think about ways to impact other people’s lives,” Fisher said.

The principal said the school hopes to show the ACE Pod project to potential students as they offer campus tours this summer.

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