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Ohio State helps Metro School with design challenge projects

Tours led by university, Engie provide behind-the-scenes facts about energy, waste

On two chilly February mornings, students from Metro Early College Middle School were granted special access to facilities at the Ohio State University to learn a lesson about sustainability.

The students are developing projects known as “design challenges,” which focus on infrastructure improvement, and a class field trip provided inspiration. Through a collaboration with Engie, Ohio State’s energy partner, engineers were on-site and able to answer questions about the university’s energy framework.

“Our students identified a problem related to trash, water or electricity. We are here to see what Ohio State is doing with these same infrastructure issues,” said Kevin Freeman, an eighth-grade math teacher at Metro.

Seventh-grade students spent the morning of Feb. 14 at Ohio Stadium, where they were taken on a tour that included the recruit room and the press box. The day’s highlight, however, was a trip down to the football field.

“I’ve been to Ohio State before, but I’ve never had a full tour,” said seventh-grader Jiselle Jenkins. In addition to the tour, students engaged in discussions about sustainability with interns from the university’s Zero Waste project.

“We need sustainability to do the things we want to do in the future,” Jenkins added.

Eighth-graders had their turn the next day when Engie team members guided them through a walking tour of geothermal and water systems at the university.

“We want to give students a real-world tour of actual infrastructure design and how we’ve implemented it on campus,” said Ryan Wester, a program manager with Engie.

Students began the day on the South Oval, where they learned about the geothermal wells that feed the area. The South High Rise Geothermal Plant, as it’s known, serves 10 buildings with heating and six with cooling, all in the South Residential District.

The next stop was Mirror Lake, an iconic Ohio State location. Here students asked questions about water usage on campus. Metro eighth-grader Yaha Abdi said this was his favorite part of the tour.

“My design challenge is about water, so I liked the water system – how they use cool water and hot water,” he said.

The tour ended at the South Campus Chilled Water Plant, where students learned how the facility provides chilled water for the Wexner Medical Center and other nearby buildings. They also examined maps showing chilled water facilities on campus.

“I liked looking at the chiller. It was a cool building and I liked learning about that,” said Noor Ouhammou, another eighth-grader. “We can take the information that we’re learning today and apply it to the some of the problems that we’re working on at Metro.”

Beyond the tour itself, the campus visits served another important purpose for the Metro students and staff: a change of pace after two field-trip-free years.

“Because of COVID, we were virtual all last year […] and these eighth-graders, their sixth-grade year was cut in half, so this is their first field trip since they’ve been in middle school,” Freeman said. “I think they had a blast. A lot of questions were being asked, a lot of kids were taking videos and photos. For a lot of them, it was their first time on campus, so they were experiencing that. I think they had a great time.”

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