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Efficiency grant to enhance Limestone magnet school

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Math teacher Pete Pedersen (center) directs students' attention to the dry-erase board as they crunch numbers in an accelerated advance math class at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in April 2009. In the front row are sophomores Casey Thornton (left) of Waterboro and Devin Ward (right) of Greenville. The school was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the 14th best math and science high school out of about 600 in the nation on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2011.
By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

LIMESTONE, Maine — Students at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics will use the skills they learned in the classroom and funding from a federal grant to reduce the cost of heating and operating a campus building.

Officials at MSSM learned last Thursday that the Office of Naval Research awarded the school an $80,000 grant for students to improve the energy efficiency of a residential home on the MSSM campus.

The grant came from ONR’s competitive Sponsoring Scholars in Science program. The program is aimed at generating innovative projects that cultivate student interest and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

The Limestone school was one of 12 selected from a national pool of over 125 applicants.

The state’s only magnet school caters to a little over 100 students in grades 10 through 12 from approximately 81 Maine communities. A handful of students from out of state also attend MSSM each year.

The majority of students live in residence halls on campus.

As part of the grant, students taking the solar engineering and thermal process course will design and implement an energy efficiency plan for the residential home. The 1,104-square-foot dwelling is one of 12 built by the Department of Defense and granted to MSSM after the closure in 1994 of Loring Air Force Base.

Students will research strategies for making the building more energy efficient, both structurally and in how it is used. They will conduct an energy audit and then design and implement an energy efficiency plan that will be tested, modified and implemented by subsequent classes.

Luke Shorty, executive director of MSSM, said earlier this week that buildings granted to the school by the Department of Defense are valuable resources for the school. They have housed students and faculty, provided laboratory space and allowed the school to open a health facility.

At the same time, the buildings are old and the cost of heating and operating them is a challenge, according to Shorty.

The executive director said he was pleased that the school received the grant.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students to apply the concepts they have learned in class to a real-world problem,” he said. “I also hope it will produce some energy efficiency techniques for local homeowners.”

The project will be overseen by Michael Lambert, who teaches the solar engineering and thermal processes course and who has spent nearly 30 years in the forest products, hydroelectric, thermal and nuclear-power industries.

The Office of Naval Research selected winning proposals from seven topic areas supporting K-12, higher education and education research.

“This was a difficult task with so many good initiatives to review and rank,” Dr. Michael Kassner, ONR’s director of research, said in a written statement. “Ideas ranged from hands-on STEM kits to academic curricula to various competitions. Ultimately, the selection board chose the ideas with the most follow-on potential and those most closely aligned to the secretary of the Navy’s STEM goals.”

Operating since 1995, MSSM is a tuition-free public boarding high school.
Three months ago, US News & World Report ranked it the 14th best math and science high school in the nation, and the top in New England.

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