Students Energized Through Math

UNIS Hanoi is getting ready to install its very first set of solar panels on campus, thanks to one student’s belief that the buildings could be more than structures in which learning happened; they could help generate renewable energy for the School too!

Determined to bring his idea into fruition, Arahat Chikkatur, knew if he could calculate how much energy UNIS Hanoi consumed, explore the surface area of each building and consider the size and costs of a solar panel, he could convince School leaders to switch to solar. “Through my research, I realized there were significant environmental and financial benefits for the School,” he said. Using a range of technologies, Arahat was able to pull together a detailed proposal for consideration by the School’s Impact Fund. And last year, his idea was approved!

This year, thanks to a fundraising drive, the School community is on track to raise the much-needed USD70,000 to begin the project. But Arahat, a Grade 9 student, is keen to bring other members of the community along on this adventure too. Grade 6 Math and Science Teacher, Kimberly Yash was inspired by what she learned from Arahat when serving on the solar panel committee, and she wanted to let her students experience a taste of the real-world mathematics a sustainable designer would need to employ.

Just last week, Grade 6 students were called upon to use their own mathematics skills to make a plan for UNIS Hanoi’s solar power. As part of their math lessons, students were given key data and asked to work as sustainable designers. They had to calculate the number of solar panels the School would need in order to generate the amount of electricity the School uses, consider the area and various roof structures, and work within constraints such as utilizing the least number of buildings to minimize installation costs.

Arahat worked on the calculations and Misty Shipley, the Director of Finance and Operations provided authentic data from UNIS Hanoi. Following this, both sixth grade math teachers, Britton Riehm and Kimberly Yash, went through the task themselves to make sure it was realistic and achievable for a sixth grader. Prior to the task, sixth grade students worked through a related exploration with data from the University of California who have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2025. 

This exercise, says Ms. Kimberly, gave students the chance to apply math to real life situations; an experience the students were grateful for. 

Grade 6 student, Ivan said he learned that projects such as these, requires an understanding of protocols such as a fire code and not just math. His classmate, Alina said this task was the ‘type of problem’ she’d never done before. 

Describing some of the unexpected challenges, she said, “When we looked at Google Earth, all our buildings seemed flat, but when we went out to see the buildings, we realized they were curved. That made me wonder if all my measurements were right. I also learned that there are some things that I hadn’t thought through such as obstacles on the roof and how solar panels can’t be placed right next to each other.”

Two other Grade 6 students, Hami and Prakhar, are excited by the prospect that their calculations may help School Leaders move the project forward. Though for Prakhar, he hopes “just one of [them has] the right answer so our School can be more sustainable.”

Join the students’ efforts to see the installation of solar panels on our campus! Make a donation to the Impact Fund today.