An Interview with Jeremy Parker: Grant For Solar Grid

Nov 6, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1)  I understand that Liberty Traditional School have just won a $5,000 Grant from Diamondbacks. How did this come about?

The Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) and the University of Phoenix partner together and advertised that they would be offering a grant opportunity to any school or teacher who applied in four specific categories:

Educational Programs 2) Innovation & Technology,3)  Nutrition & Fitness, and School & Campus Improvements.

Several individuals within our organization mentioned the opportunity to me so I followed up and discovered that anyone could apply.  Our school as well as many others, could use that grant to better our school and community so I asked that all of our staff apply in any of the four categories.

2)      This grant will fund a student project to build a solar micro-grid.

What exactly IS a solar micro-grid and whose idea was it?

The idea originated with Mrs. Halpern as an emergency response scenario.  She had written another grant trying to get students more hands on opportunities with solar energy and how this energy could be used to work in day to day applications.  At the same time, Mrs. Clafton was working on a project that used solar ovens made from aluminum foil and cardboard boxes.  She was teaching her students how to create something that could be used to cook and even purify water if one was without modern conveniences (She later arranged to have these solar ovens shipped to Uganda.)  Both teachers collaborated their efforts and decided to take it a step further and develop an emergency response micro grid community utilizing solar energy.

Their idea is to teach kids to be able to use resources around them in effort to survive in a natural disaster situation.  For example, if a hurricane hit and leveled the area they were it, they could collect the materials needed to create solar inverters and collectors in order to harness power for lighting, water purification, and basic survival needs.  This power could also be coupled to power special needs individuals’ possibly needing power for breathing machines.

This all comes from what is called the STEM project or making concepts real for students in practical hands on ways.

3)      Who wrote the proposal and what were they trying to accomplish?

Nan Halpern and Terri Clafton, two teachers at Liberty traditional Charter School collaborated with myself in effort to create a project that both was fun, challenging, and that complied with the Arizona Common Core Standards in Math and Science. Both teachers wanted to create a project that was hands on and challenged the students to see what opportunities will be out there for them when they leave school.

With the advancement of technology in the area of green energy, our society will need engineers and people qualified and trained to help manage and maintain renewable energy sites.  A project like this helps encourage students to explore career fields that they may not have thought possible before in a “hands on”  way.

4)      How was the University of Phoenix involved?

The University of Phoenix partners with the Arizona Diamondbacks on many of their charity and grants programs and served in the capacity of screening applicants for this grant.  Once the applicants were screened a panel from the Diamondbacks and University of Phoenix selected various schools who participated based on criteria they had agreed upon and the contest rules.

5)      How many students were involved in this project?

Originally, about 100 students have been involved in the formation of this project as it is the proto type.  However, this project has the potential to reach a much higher number of students as it expands through many state academic standards well into high school.

6) Right now, folks on the East coast are recovering from a hurricane and tornado. How would this solar micro-grid help?

Based on the design of this project, individuals would be able to collect items around them in effort to provide for their basic needs if major utilities were not available for weeks at a time.  As long as solar energy could be harnessed and collected individuals would be able to power basic day to day items needed for survival.  The solar inverters could be used to power refrigerators used for food storage, water purification units, lighting, and basic medical needs.

Survival camps could be developed in effort to help people affected by the storms.

7) For those in other parts of the United States, who are these “Diamondbacks” and what are they doing to help?

The Arizona Diamondbacks are a Major League Baseball team located in Phoenix, Arizona and often partner with many organizations within the community.  They also sponsor many charity opportunities with their organization and their players.  They often help schools and other community organizations in effort to better their community.

8)      Tell us more about Liberty Charter School?

Liberty Traditional Charter School is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing charter school systems. Liberty is a tuition-free, not-for-profit charter school providing an exceptional educational environment that focuses on academics, community involvement and family values. Liberty Traditional has two schools, one in Phoenix and one in Douglas. Raena Janes, an active advocate for Arizona education and charter schools, is the superintendent of Liberty Traditional Charter School.

10)  Do you have a website where you can find more information?

Visit the school’s website at

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