South Orangetown Central School District

Students in the brand-new Alternative Fuels course at Tappan Zee High School are designing and building scale models of an energy-efficient, “off-the-grid” home. Over the next 10 weeks, student teams will reach out to local experts as they brainstorm, develop and critique their projects.

During his November 5 visit, Chalet Suisse Home Improvement owner Danny Roggensinger (TZHS ‘05) fielded questions on topics including the pros and cons of well water, heating systems and types of insulation. Students were particularly interested in how general contractors schedule and price construction jobs. “Your schedule is based on the trades,” Mr. Roggensinger explained, noting that most tradespeople work 8-10 hours per day and that busy contractors get better pricing from their subcontractors. “You should figure on $150 per square foot. People don’t think about the overhead involved: Insurance, trucks, workers compensation…it adds up quick.”

Through hands-on projects like this, Alternative Fuels students are experimenting with what they learn about energy conversion, storage and transmission in existing and future power and transportation systems.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs! You don’t have to look too far to see that alternative fuels are a thing of now, the near future and for a long time after that,” says Mr. Keelty. “Elon Musk has brought Tesla technology to Pearl River with a solar farm. Major car companies are vowing to be totally electric in the next five or so years. Who’s going design future vehicles, fix them and improve on them? Who will redesign, install and maintain the new infrastructure of the American highway system to allow all this to happen? Alternative fuels are going to generate tremendous job market growth, it makes sense to expose students to those career opportunities.”

The unit was developed by Alternative Fuels teacher Jim Keelty and Gr. 6-12 Instructional Math Coach Marisa Premus at the High Tech High School Project Design for Deeper Learning Conference at Ulster BOCES in New Paltz in late October.

“High Tech High is the leader in deeper learning,” Ms. Premus remarked. “During our two-day workshop, Mr. Keelty and I began developing the off-the-grid house unit under the guidance of two High Tech High teachers. Our team will continue working with our HTH facilitators over the next few months, through “critical friends phone calls” as well as additional training in April.

Stay tuned for progress updates!

Guest speaker lectures Alternative Fuels class