K-12 students gathered in the CSUF Titan Student Union to offer solutions for environmental issues

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four students display their project in front of audience
(Tricia Lasha / Daily Titan)

Food waste, alternative energy, bee preservation and global climate change were some of the issues tackled at the fifth annual Orange County K-12 Sustainability Showcase in the Titan Student Union.

The showcase hosted over 65 students from six different school districts, giving them the opportunity to present their ideas, class projects and sustainable inventions before an audience of parents and teachers.  

“All of you are going to be our leaders. You’re going to be the people who do things and we need to see that challenges are not something to be afraid of, they’re something to engage in,” said John Bock, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Sustainability at CSUF.

Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Sustainability hosted the event with the CSUF Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience and [email protected], an organization that aims to encourage middle school students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education.

While addressing the students in attendance, Bock said “a lot of responsibility for the future” will be put on the student’s shoulders once the older generation is gone.

Fourteen-year-old Rahi Patel from Dale Junior High School in Anaheim said he is looking forward to taking on this responsibility through sustainable inventions.

For the showcase, Patel and his groupmates, Jason Palomino and Michael Ngo, built a solar powered electric scooter.

“We all had a similar love of technology and found out about Tesla making sustainable cars, so we thought that since we can’t drive cars we could make a scooter that runs on solar energy,” Patel said.

Students watch a presentation at the fifth annual K-12 Sustainability Showcase.
(Tricia Lasha / Daily Titan)

With the help of their parents, the students bought a solar panel from Amazon, mounted it to the front of a scooter and “changed the flow of energy” by hooking up an external battery and solar wire to the internal battery to recharge it.

“The main reason why we wanted to build this scooter is really just to save energy for the world, because the world runs on so much unsustainable energy and it’s going to ruin the world if we don’t put a stop to it soon,” said Palomino.

Another presentation at the showcase called “Hungry Helpers” focused on reducing food waste.

Andreanela Ordoñez, a ninth grade student from Middle College High School in Santa Ana, collected her school’s trash for three days with her teammates and organized it into compost, garbage and plastic piles. They then weighed the piles and gathered data to inform their school about the quantity of food being wasted.

“We just want to have a pilot program to see what we can change at our school, and hopefully implement that later into other high schools,” said Anapatricia Curiel, a senior from Middle College High School.

Curiel said she also wants to begin collecting wasted food, store it in a fridge and redistribute it to homeless people and others in need in Santa Ana.

Bock said the CSUF community can learn from the ideas presented by the K-12 students to help reduce the university’s carbon footprint, particularly regarding transportation.

“I would encourage everyone to think about not driving their own car by themselves, but also to consider public transportation options, bicycling and other sustainable transportation,” Bock said.  

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