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CHS students win contest cash in quest to promote energy savings
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Ceres High School students Ethan Campbell, Karelly Barajas and Amber Rose created an energy saving display that garnered an award on the steps of the State Capitol on Friday. The display encourages others to discontinue use of older bulbs. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Seven students in the Ceres High School Manufacturing Production and Green Technology Academy believe in saving energy. Their efforts to build exhibits to showcase energy savings technology landed them a second place award and paid them $800 apiece on the steps of the State Capitol on Friday.

The CHS team created two entries as part of the SMUD Youth Energy Summit held on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento. Seniors Ethan Campbell, Amber Rose, Karelly Barajas and Andre Torres built their "A Bright Way to Switch" exhibit which earned a second place award. It consisted of a metal tree made from recycled metals provided by L&W Metals MFG. LLC, in Ceres. On the 13-foot-tall tree were displayed 750 incandescent or halogen light bulbs which represented old technology switched out with newer energy efficient bulbs.

The students contacted Light Bulbs Plus, a Rancho Cordova provider of energy-saving LED Cree brand light bulbs at wholesale costs. To finance the purchase of 750 light bulbs, Academy students went door to door in Ceres and pre-sold 550 of them for $6 apiece in exchange for an old energy-wasting bulb. The bulbs ordinarily cost $12 apiece but on average last 22 years. The old bulbs were then hung on the tree "branches" and displayed at the Capitol. The tree came with a sign noting that the collective bulb replacement is expected to save a total of $193,380 in electrical costs over the 22 years. Each bulb by itself is expected to save $139 over its lifetime by using 84 percent less energy.

About 200 of the leftover LED bulbs will be available at the Ceres Street Faire this weekend. The public may bring down an old incandescent bulb and $1 to receive a new LED bulb.

The second award-winning entry was the "Tree of Light" project which was created by Jose Nunez, Anthony Vasquez and Sarah Connors. It received a fifth place award. The trio of students fabricated a metal palm tree from recycled metals also provided by L&W Metals of Ceres. They then attached small solar panels on the "leaves" to energize nine high-powered LEDs for light. This evening light will address an off-grid concept that can be placed anywhere offering demand lighting for walking paths or community areas in Ceres. The greatest attribute will be that it will cost the city nothing for electricity as all the power is derived from the sun, said Chris Van Meter, the Academy instructor.

The SMUD contest called for exhibits to incorporate community art.

"We thought bulbs would be the easiest way because they're cheap and nobody really knows about LED so they're not really informed about how much money you can really save," said Karelly Barajas.

Amber Rose noted that not many people know the difference between an incandescent, Light Emitting Diodes (LED) light bulb and CFL (curly) bulbs. CFLs have been deemed by some as unsafe because if they break they can release mercury. LED bulbs use a little semiconductor to emit light and are non-toxic and made of recyclable materials.

The SMUD competition kicked off in January and involved 200 students living in the SMUD (Sacramento), Roseville Electric, Lodi Electric and now Turlock power districts. TID gave $5,000 to the CHS team as sponsors. Students were challenged to create a project that could serve as community art while offers energy savings.

Ethan Campbell was looking forward to the end of the project because of the possibility of scholarships. The results were not disappointing.