Maconaquah Middle School has been a awarded a $25,000 technology prize as the Indiana state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. Under the leadership of seventh grade teacher Patrick Redmon, the group will now compete for their share of the $2 million grand prize. (Herald photo/provided)
Maconaquah Middle School has been a awarded a $25,000 technology prize as the Indiana state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest. Under the leadership of seventh grade teacher Patrick Redmon, the group will now compete for their share of the $2 million grand prize. (Herald photo/provided)
Maconaquah Middle School has been a awarded a $25,000 technology prize as the Indiana state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a program that encourages teachers and students to solve real world issues using classroom skills in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

As a state winner Maconaquah Middle School will have the opportunity to advance for a share of the $2 million grand prize.  

Patrick Redmon, a 7th grade teacher at Maconaquah, is the driving force behind the prize-winning project. 

“The project originated with the idea of bringing wind power to Maconaquah with the goal of powering part, and eventually all of the school,” Redmon said. “It kind of builds on the responsible stewardship that (fellow MMS teacher) John Sinnamon modeled with the farm-to-school operation he started.”

The farm-to-school project is designed to allow the students to raise cattle to provide beef for the middle school cafeteria, and eventually the entire corporation.

“John’s students worked with faculty, local farmers and businesses to create and build a barn and enclosure for the cattle,” Redmon said. “Local businesses helped provide materials for the barn, the pavement, the electric fence and the lighting.” 

“Our initial wind-power project will provide the energy source for this part of the operation, and will likely include a couple of small wind turbines and batteries to store the energy.”

The project will be primarily funded through the crowd-funding site generosity.com. Those interested in donating can go to the site and type “Maconaquah” in the search feature.  

“We are hoping to inspire the kids and the community at large to consider and embrace alternative and renewable energy sources,” Redmon said.
Students like Jonah Loshnowsky have already been inspired.

“Being chosen as the Indiana finalist is exciting because it will give us a chance to maybe get a windmill for the school and get some national recognition,” Loshnowsky said.

“A windmill is more exciting that other forms of renewable energy because it’s visible,” Loshnowsky said. “We’d be able to show all of Bunker Hill our windmill.”

Loshnowsky was aware of some forms of renewable energy before the project, but said he understands them better now. This deeper understanding has shown him the value of clean and renewable energy. 

“People should care about it because if everybody used renewable energy, stuff like global warming wouldn’t be an issue at all,” Loshnowsky said.
Jonah’s classmate Lilly Maple expanded on Loshnowsky’s thoughts.

“I think it’s really cool to know that renewable energy doesn’t pollute the earth. It just keeps going — it won’t ever run out,” Maple said. “It doesn’t harm animals or nature.”

Redmon said all the students have expressed similar levels of enthusiasm for the STEAM project.

“I think the great aspect of STEAM is it allows the students to engage their imagination and innovate,” he said. “They develop their own theories and designs, fail, and try again. It is the essence of innovation.

Maple said she is a fan of STEAM education because it incorporates hands-on projects and has far-reaching effects.

“We don’t have to do worksheets to learn,” Maple said. “We can find other ways to make our school better."

“I think it’s really good because its not just helping our school, but it’s helping the projects in the school,” Maple continued, citing Maconaquah Cattle Company. “Our windmill can hopefully power the barn.”

In conjunction with the wind-power project, there will also be a STEAM-themed art contest, Redmon said.

“Marlee Compton, curator of the Miami County Artisan Gallery is running the contest,” Redmon said. “It’s more than about energy – it is also about the idea of expanding responsibility, of being good stewards.”

Up until this point, Redmon said the students’ involvement has been on the periphery. That is about to change.

“This Friday the students begin their alternative energy activities in earnest in the school cafeteria,” he said. “They will make models of wind turbine blades and then test their effectiveness in providing energy using a fan.”

According to Redmon, the students will employ a fairly sophisticated computer program to aid in their efforts.

“The program takes their different concepts and helps determine variables in design they can change to increase the energy generated,” Redmon explained.

Though all 7th grade classes will be instrumental in the wind-power initiative, Redmond’s 5th period class will have a unique role in the project.

“The 5th period class will basically act as project managers,” Redmon said. “They will be the ones to calculate how much energy we need, and how many turbines are needed to generate that energy. They will also gauge how much community help we need and be the face of the project in the public. They are going to have to wear a lot of hats, but I have no doubt they are up to the challenge.”

Redmon credited Samsung for being a dedicated supporter of STEAM education nationwide with the Solve for Tomorrow contest.

“Five schools in each state receive Galaxy tablets, and 51 state winners (states plus the District of Columbia) win $25,000 worth of technology, so you can see they are very generous,” he said. “In addition they gave a surprise $500 donation to a charity or non-profit each finalist supported.

“They provide a great platform for teachers to engage our students in STEAM subjects, while offering great financial resources to the schools.”

The opportunity to participate in the contest would never have been possible without the support of a great school system, Redmon noted.

“We have an administration that welcomes and celebrates innovative ideas,” he said. “From the administration, to the faculty, to the amazing students, Maconaquah is full of people who think outside the box and always look for ways to make the school and the world a better place.”