Like many other high school students, Courtney Imbaro, a sophomore from Plainville, has been hard at work this summer.
What sets her apart from most of the rest is her lack of excitement to see her 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. gig end come Aug. 24.
Imbaro has been working at Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole with 28 of her fellow students and three teachers for the Aggie Clean Energy Corps.
The program is being funded by a Learn and Earn grant that Norfolk Aggie received from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The goal of the Learn and Earn grant is to equip Massachusetts high schoolers with the skills to pursue clean energy careers and clean energy or STEM majors in higher education.
The students in the program come to work for six hours a day, Monday through Friday, and get paid $11 an hour. The work they do centers around a multitude of clean energy projects and environmental science learning.
“It’s a job, but it’s also kind of a part of our curriculum,” Imbaro said.
Casey Fromer, a junior from Norfolk, and Caius Spring, a senior from Wrentham, are among the students in the program.
Spring will actually be a member of the school’s first class to graduate with a major in environmental science since the major was recently established.
Peter Kane, one of the teachers working with the students, said the program was important for the school and the newly added major.
“We’re trying to attract more kids to the Aggie and to the environmental science program,” Kane said.
Kane also acknowledged that there was an increasing need for solar installation and wind turbine technicians.
“We’re trying to prepare them for that job market,” Kane said.
One of the program’s proudest accomplishments of the summer has been the construction of a wind turbine that now stands next to the school’s plant science building.
The program did receive some assistance from Wind Guys USA, but the majority of the work was done by the students. They researched before the turbine arrived, dug holes and trenches, poured concrete for the foundation and even put the pieces of the turbine together.
Imbaro said the funniest part of assembling the turbine was when they had to use pomegranate-scented dish soap to help slide the segments of the turbine together.
Kane was beyond proud of the turbine.
“Every time I look at it I smile,” Kane said. “I can’t help it.”
He added that the location of the turbine was pretty good for the school’s campus, but not ideal for a turbine in general.
“It really needs to be on a hill or a high tower,” Kane said.
Kane admitted that the energy produced by the turbine was not hugely substantial, but that it would probably produce slightly more energy in the winter months.
Other large projects that the students have been working on include a solar thermal system which uses solar panels to heat water for the plant and environmental science building and a roof system which uses solar panels fixated onto a model roof to power a battery that will operate a water pump for a small garden’s irrigation system.
“We have so many projects going on,” Imbaro said.
The focus of the program also expands beyond just the science of clean energy, but also lends itself to education about software, business, photography and budgeting.
Even the person handling the immense budget is a student: 16-year-old Sarah Jefferson of Walpole.
“We got a $160,000 grant, so I track where all that goes,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson’s fellow classmates advocated for her success at the position, and Jefferson said she had it down to a system.
“Checks and balances,” Jefferson said. “That’s the best way to work it.”
The program also allocates time for the students to go on fun and educational field trips. So far, the students have visited Stonehill College in Easton to learn about the school’s efforts to be more green; Hull to look at the town’s local wind turbines and Nantasket Beach and New Bedford to talk to the Massachusetts CEC panel about their work this summer.
They also made the journey to Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island to visit more wind turbines there.
Kane was happy to report that the Massachusetts CEC had already offered the school the same grant to continue the program next summer.
One of the projects the students will be working on next summer is making carts with models of wind turbines and solar panels to bring to other schools and show other students the science behind the devices and introduce them to the terminology for these green machines.
“One of the best parts is it’ll be the students teaching other students,” Kane said.
Imbaro recognized that she would only have three days in between the end of her summer job and the start of school, but she still said there was no place she’d rather be.
“Honestly, I am so proud of this,” Imbaro said. “This is where I wanna spend my time.”