Monday, May 16, 2016

Phys/Envst 104 final projects


Take a look at some of the amazing projects by the phenomenal students in Phys/Envst 104 this semester. Phys/Envst 104 (Renewable Energy) is a general education science course I teach at Mount Holyoke College.

Can I get a plate of solar energy sunny-side up please?

The air is stiflingly hot. You realize you can hardly breathe. Your skin feels like it is catching fire. Your alarm wakes you up.

It is often said that music is an escape from the reality people live in. Listeners can drift off into whatever Nirvana or fantasy they would like. Allowing the melodies and lyrics to ebb into their thoughts and
produce feelings they were not otherwise feeling. But what if music started to reflect people’s reality.

The lyrics and melody becomes a part of the listener so if the lyrics were to inspire change, there would be more initiative towards improving the state of our environment.

Where does your electricity come from?

The 6:30 alarm goes off, and you roll out of bed. In that groggy, barely awake moment, what is the first thing you do? You flip on the lightswitch. This is a simple action that occurs every morning and throughout the day, but hardly ever does the average person give a second thought to what energy source is supplying power to that lightbulb or where that power is coming from.

Our project strives to highlight the differences in overall efficiencies of coal power plants and renewable energy sources, including the long term monetary benefits of switching to renewable sources.

Lithium mining: the World’s future

With current technology, electric cars rely on lithium batteries. Because lithium batteries are the foundation of the future, it is essential to understand the process of lithium mining and its possible impacts. The purpose of this project is to provide information about the mining process itself, but also to raise concerns and explore political, environmental and economic impacts so that further improvements can be made if necessary.

Take a bite out of climate change

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With the climate crisis looming over our heads, it’s easy to quickly point blame at the industrial giants and overlook our own contributions. How much do our seemingly simple day to day actions, down to what we put on our plates, have an impact on our climate? The power to create and ensure a sustainable future comes from a rather unsuspecting place: your plate. The agricultural and food industries are big players in the topic of climate crisis, and what we decide to consume can either drastically help or hurt that.


Going going gone: the tragic tale of four truly important endangered species

Download a pdf of the flyers

Pigeons scuttling across city sidewalks in the winter wind. Bees and butterflies slowly reviving spring flowers. Crickets singing in the grass on warm summer nights. Squirrels hoarding acorns in the fall. What if one day none of that happened? You’d realize something was wrong, but how late would you be? We, as humans, focus almost entirely on ourselves: how much longer will we have the resources we need? How many more people can the world support? How can we produce, transport, and store enough food? How can we make sure we survive, regardless of the cost?

Not all burgers are created equal

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Per capita meat consumption has more than doubled in the past half-century. Linked with global population growth, the overall demand for meat has increased five-fold. The meat industry has put a heavy demand on resources, limiting the availability of water, land, feed, fertilizer, and fuel. American fast food chains have thrived on the novelty of a classic burger. Long lines at the drive- thru highlight consumerism at its finest. However, does each consumer ever think of the environmental footprint that goes into creating that one burger patty?

How accessible is solar?

The US experiences the 4th greatest wealth inequality compared to 141 other countries. 578,424 people were reported to live without housing in 2014, and 46.7 million are living in poverty. That’s more that 14% of our population. We have all been told that solar power is going to save us. Solar power can produce upwards of 147kWh/day/person and in an ideal world; solar power would be as commonly used as gas and coal. We decided to break down the financials of installing and using solar power, in order to provide more insight as to whether it's a viable alternative as we combat climate change.

Catching kid’s attention to advocate for change

Download a pdf of the flyer
Download a pdf of the workshop flyer

In our curriculum we want to incorporate the knowledge on the four renewable resources and how important it is to replace fossil fuel use with solar or wind energy. We feel it is also important to cover how much we use and waste daily; how efficient our energy usage daily is, and how harmful human impacts on the environment are. We will use a hands-on approach that gets students moving and interacting with these topics, because we feel they will identify more with the issue. We ultimately want to empower the youth to take action because they are instrumental in advocating for change.

How to respect mama earth and still get good grades

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While complicated scientific jargon may make understanding environmental issues seem like an impossible challenge, the truth is that our everyday actions have real, important consequences for the environment, and the mission of this blog is to make climate change concrete. To show the ways in which your actions matter. We will challenge and we will educate. We will put the power of climate justice where it belongs: in your hands.

An Ice-Breaker Introduction to Methane Clathrates

Our current world relies heavily on conventional fossil fuels: coal, natural gas, and oil. We're expected to run out of these energy resources by the end of this century at our current rate of consumption. What will we do for energy next? Before we turn to renewable energies, we might look into more unconventional fossil fuels, one of these being methane hydrates.