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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/29/16. David Mounger, the Energy Systems teacher at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, speaks with senior class students J'darius Cameron and Kalin Ledford about a solar panel project that they and other students completed which is located on the school's football field and has the ability to add energy to the grid.

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Bright ideas: CSAS students apply energies to hand-on activities

When an outlet stopped working in J'darius Cameron's bedroom, the high school senior knew how to fix it without calling an electrician.

"I was able to repair it," he said. "I had learned similar circuitry at school."

Cameron, a senior at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, said he learns best by using his hands, and that is exactly what he did last semester in his Energy Systems class.

During the class, Cameron and his classmates worked to install solar panels, which are connected to the school's electrical grid.

Their teacher, Davis Mounger, developed the class' curriculum, which he says pushes students to apply the theories they are learning in the classroom to hands-on problem solving.

Mounger said throughout the semester his students work on a variety of projects, and he especially likes the solar panels segment of the class because it gives back to the school by providing electricity.

Standing on the school's soccer field where the 10 solar panels are mounted on a wooden frame, Mounger and some of his students explained the process of digging trenches, running wires and hooking up the solar panels to the school's grid.

Cameron said other students are always envious of kids in the class.

"They are in class taking a test or something and they look out the windows and see us out here working on these solar panels," he said. "The jealousy is real."

Kalin Ledford, also a senior in the class, said boys like Cameron would dig the trenches and she would lay a pipe conduit with wire inside the trench and attach it to the school's power grid.

Ledford said she liked being able to work outside on the project — except when it rained — and it is important to her that the work she did will continue to give to the school after she graduates.

Mounger said he's been teaching the class for several years and each group of students continues the work of the class before them.

"I hope the next group will install even more panels," he said.

Mounger said he thinks this class is accomplishing many of the goals of Chattanooga 2.0, an education reform initiative focused on preparing students to enter the workforce.

He said this class is giving students experience in several valuable trades, and it also counts for a basic electrical engineering credit at Chattanooga State Community College.

"We are able to give kids a chance to learn about something that they can one day make a good living off of," Mounger said. "Kids should never be told that skilled labor isn't a good career."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.

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