Students at a Bellevue, Washington high school are creating solar panels to power homeless encampments. The students at Interlake High School are making a difference in their community, providing power resources to the Seattle area’s homeless residents through the use of renewable energy.
The project was inspired by the work of Walt Hickey, a geometry teacher at Interlake High School. Hickey has done quite a bit of work for communities in Mexico, installing solar panels for Mexican families for the past 15 years. Hickey had students work on creating solar panels for use in Mexico. The students saw how their actions could improve the lives of people in Mexico and decided to apply the same approach to the Seattle area. Hickey has taken it upon himself to show the students, bit by bit, how to design, wire and construct solar panels.
“Youri showed up and said let’s do this. So that’s when we did our research on the Internet, got out some schematics, plugged wires in and next thing you know we had light,” said Hickey.
Youri Babakoff is the sixteen-year-old co-founder of the Community Impact Activists club.
“We come from an area that’s really lucky and have a lot of opportunities that a lot of people don’t have and I find that just small actions make a big impact on the world,” said Babakoff.
Babakoff and the rest of the club were determined to get the news out there and recruit other students, such as seventeen-year-old Petros Magoulas into the club.
“I had a friend on the bus and he’s like, ‘Dude, there’s this really cool club we can both get involved in. It’s like a mix of engineering and helping the community,’” Magoulas said.
Hickey’s nonprofit, Camino Maestro, gives the necessary parts to students of the club. The solar panels cost about $115 to produce, and then another ten dollars to ship them via Amtrak. The panels that were assembled by the students are currently bound for Mexico.
Babakoff said he is in the process of creating another student-run non-profit to continue creating panels for poor or homeless families in the Seattle area. Hickey states that the solar panels come with USB charging ports so that residents of Seattle’s tiny houses can charge their phones for job interviews, get in touch with family members, arrange transportation, etc.
“I remember this one lady,” Babakoff said of a tiny house resident, continuing, “she came and hugged us after we installed it and you could really tell how much it meant to her. I felt that’s what really counts.”