Inside Hudson’s Bay High School’s mycology lab, students in the Architecture, Construction and Environmental Services magnet program are experimenting with different mushroom species to explore possibilities in the fields of alternative energy and sustainability.
Under the watchful eye of ACES teacher Steve Lorenz, three Bay teams have been preparing to compete in Washington State University’s Imagine Tomorrow, a high school energy competition with $100,000 in prizes. In addition to dedicating an independent study class period to their research, they forfeit lunch periods to work in the lab.
For Bay senior Aaron Baker and sophomore Cedric Hitzeman, pearl oyster mushrooms may help fully harness the potential of camelina sativa, a plant in the mustard family that can be used in biofuels. Baker and Hitzeman combine pearl oyster mushroom mycelium in a paste with straw, wood and compost mixes to break down camelina meal, the byproduct of squeezing camelina sativa for biofuel production. The resulting substrate could be used for future crop rotations.
In addition, “We hope that we can take everything we’ve learned and grow mushrooms that can be sold to provide money for ACES,” said Baker.
Bailey Barlow, a junior in the ACES Magnet and one-half of an Imagine Tomorrow team with senior Corbin Imrie, is using the pearl oyster mycelium to decompose paper and cardboard. The goal of their bioremediation project, Barlow said, is to prevent the waste from leaving the school, instead becoming compost for retail.
Seniors Daniel Bomber and Aaron Bode are working on a way to encourage carpooling among teams from schools headed to Pullman, Washington, for Imagine Tomorrow. Using linear algebra, the duo is plotting a route that will save money on fuel costs and mitigate the environmental impact of approximately 200 teams traveling in separate vehicles. A social media component could help create incentives for participation and incite behavioral change. Ideally, the model could be scaled for mass-transit use.
While all three projects could take years to become fully viable, the project signals a deep-rooted commitment to the ACES program, school and earth. The energy solutions of tomorrow may just be at Hudson’s Bay High School today.