Video: Kids go electric for science

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Video – A hair-raising experience for Katelynn Gomez

ROCKINGHAM — Rockingham Middle School science teacher Kristie Wikane had a problem.

Her students, she said, weren’t thinking “about people who are doing science in the community.”

Photo by William Hunter Rockingham Middle School student Shane Tyson.

Photo by William Hunter
Rockingham Middle School student Shane Tyson.

So Wikane brought the community to them. On Wednesday, seventh-graders laughed and howled — and learned — as Anne Edwards and Todd Moore of Pee Dee Electric set up a Van de Graaff generator and an indoor play set that recreated a potential run-in with outdoor power lines inside the school’s auditorium.

The results were, well, electric. One by one, students took their turn on stage. Edwards, Moore and teachers William Hunt and Jordyn Lowman selected students that had just the right kind of hair — long, light and ready to react to the static electricity generated. And in case there were any low moments, Edwards and Moore helped the students be aware of the very real, mortal dangers of electricity.

Electricity, explained Edwards, has to be made, “and once it’s made, it has to be used.”

The local big-box retailer doesn’t carry electricity in a bottle, Edwards said. Those stores “have everything, but they don’t have power. You can’t store it. So we have to conserve what we have.”

Safety was a primary message. Edwards said people are drawn to substations to hang around — but they shouldn’t. For one reason, the area tends to be a bit warmer than others and fire ants and snakes are drawn to those locations. Besides, she said, the high voltage danger signs should keep people away, too.

“Never go near a downed power line,” Edwards cautioned of electricity. “You can’t hear it, see it or smell it,” but if burned, the victim could end up “in a hospital, a burn unit or maybe even the morgue.”

Moore described the uniform of a a power line technician — right down to the 100 percent cotton underwear. That’s important, he said, because in the event of electrocution, cotton burns away from the body while many of the nylon-based, moisture-wicking garments burn towards the body, causing more damage and delay medical treatment.

“We want the clothing to burn away form the body” in such a scenario, Moore said.

Moore compared the standard American house — 120 volts — to a power line, which has 14,000 volts flowing through it. Then he mentioned the output of a standard hand-held hair dryer — more than enough to kill everyone in the room.

“Everything we do is electric,” Moore said.

Moore talked with the students about conductors (metals, moisture inside a tree) and insulators (wood, rubber) and went through a variety of possible situations in which students could come near electricity. His advice? Stay away, call 911 and leave it to the professionals.

Even that doesn’t work sometimes. Moore recalled the fate of a subcontractor on Feb. 25, 1999 who made a mistake that cost him his life. The man become the conduit between the electricity and the ground. Electricity, Moore said, will always find a way.

The visit by Pee Dee Electric workers continued what students started last week inside their classrooms. They began exploring different forms of energy, Wikane said, including how they are used around the world.

Filed in: Business, Education, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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