Reading Eagle: Member of Congress sees Green Team from Daniel Boone High School at work
U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello had his hands in the dirt Monday at Daniel Boone High School. He planted one of the season's first tomatoes in hydro clay in the greenhouse built by the school's Green Team, an after-school organization that studies alternative energy.
The idea behind the greenhouse is "soilless gardening," said Shannon Helzer, a physics teacher and Green Team faculty adviser. He said plants can grow larger fruits without soil.
Students devised an irrigation system that helps control the nutrients plants receive. The hydro clay helps get rid of waste through the plants' roots, said Morgan DeCray, 18, a senior and chief engineer on the Green Team.
Physics teacher Sid Harwood also serves as a Green Team faculty adviser.
"Thank you for letting me participate in your project," said Costello, a Chester County Republican who also represents part of Berks.
Eleven students from the team presented their work to Costello as part of their application for the national Lexus Eco Final Challenge, which is due Friday.
The students are also hosting a science, technology, engineering and math night Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the high school to complete the application. The event is free and open to the public.
The Green Team already won $10,000 at the regional level in the Lexus Air & Climate Eco Challenge. The team stands to win another $30,000 in the national competition.
Last year, Daniel Boone students became the first from Pennsylvania to win the Lexus challenge. If they win the national competition again this year, they will be the first team in the country to win it in back-to-back years.
In addition to the students working in the greenhouse, who form the supersonic hydroponics division, the Green Team also includes a biogas division.
In a lab near the courtyard, students constructed a system to produce biodiesel fuel from algae. They also displayed the biodigester they built, which uses manure to create a combination of carbon dioxide and methane that can be burned for energy production.
The Green Team would like to help local farmers set up their own biodigesters.
"That's really an emerging industry," Costello said of turning agricultural waste into energy. "The fact that all of you are working on this is very exciting and a testament to your creativity."
Harwood and Helzer said they have even bigger plans for the Green Team. They would like the alternative energy produced by the biogas division to ultimately power the heater in the greenhouse.
"This is real research," said Harwood, a former engineering lab manager. "There are a lot of things we don't know until we start investigating. That's not often available at the high school level."