Infinite Green students tour Argonne National Laboratory
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com May 1, 2013 9:06PM
Students from Infinite Green program listen to Anne Schlenker, Director of the Center for Transporation Research during a tour of the Ev-Smart Grid Interoperability Center at Argonne National Laboratories in Lemont , IL on Tuesday April 30, 2013. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 3, 2013 3:47PM
ARGONNE — Researchers who are working feverishly to make the United States more energy efficient had to come from somewhere — and so does the next generation of scientists and engineers who will tackle the country’s energy problems.
Catherine Greenspon of Lemont is hoping some of those future researchers are enrolled in her Project Infinite Green after-school program for students in the Lockport and Lemont high school districts. Kids from the program, which Greenspon created in February 2011, toured Argonne National laboratory on Tuesday to get an up close and personal view of the latest green car and battery technology.
They learned about Argonne’s Battery and Energy Storage Hub, which was awarded a five-year, $120 million federal grant last year to come up with a battery that stores five times the energy at one-fifth the cost of current batteries. They also saw a charging station used to repower batteries for electric and hybrid cars.
Last year, some of the kids went to Washington, D.C. to present their own inventions to members of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Western Springs, helped arrange that tour, and he was on hand Tuesday at Argonne to welcome the students. Lipinski, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, told the students his eighth grade science fair project in 1980 was on solar energy. He said he wishes there had been a program like Infinite Green for him back in the 1970s.
“Taking care of the environment and trying to get away from using foreign oil was very big at that time,” he said. “And here we are 30-some-odd years later and we’re talking about the same issues.”
Students enrolled in Infinite Green are infinitely pleased with the program.
Sean Dwyer, an 8th grader at Chaney Monge Grade School in Crest Hill, said the program gave him a broader view of the green energy sources available now.
“I have a better understanding of our future and what we should do for tomorrow,” said Dwyer, who hopes to become a mechanical engineer.
Andrew Hensen, an 8th grader at Homer Junior High School, said he has learned a lot about nuclear power. There is much less radioactive waste than most people realize, he explained.
Jim Moran-Deihl and Jeremy Svoboda, who are both freshman at Lemont High are happy Infinite Green has given them a place to work on their green battery made of selenium, magnesium and gallium.
“It’s entertaining,” Moran-Deihl said of the program. ”It’s a great place for people with large minds and forward thinking to be able to go and express themselves outside of the school zone where very few people think like us.”
“It gives people the opportunity to be themselves and work with other people who are like them to get big things accomplished,” he said.
Sarah Reaves, a senior at Lemont High School, is a mentor for the program. She said that students last year came up with many unique projects including solar paint for roofs and an app that let people experience how nuclear power stations work.
“It’s nice to see younger kids really interested in something … especially in 8th grade,” she said.
Greenspon starts the program in a school district’s 8th grade then expands it every year by one grade higher and lower. In Lemont, 6th through 9th graders participate. In Lockport, the program is for 8th graders. About 100 students have participated in Infinite Green so far.
Greenspon was motivated to start the program after hearing President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech in January 2011, especially his comment urging people to support students and science, technology, engineering and math training. Though she was a stay-at-home mom at the time, Greenspon had worked as a senior vice president of technology for an advertising agency in Chicago.
She quickly lined up partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy, Argonne and Citgo Refinery in Lemont. Students, who are supervised by high school science teachers, work in teams to create green business plans by the end of each session.