Stan Bergkamp, 1990 Kansas State graduate, was on his 24th year of teaching at Maize High School when he went to the superintendent of the school district with an idea that might have made him fall out of his chair.
He said he wanted to raise $385,000.
Bergkamp wants to put enough solar panels on the roof of Maize High School to generate enough electricity to power the entire building. He got the idea after putting solar panels on his own house in Wichita in July 2016 and realizing the massive amounts of money that can be saved.
“This is my opportunity to give something back to the school and give something back to the community,” Bergkamp said.
The goal is to get funding from donations and start putting the first solar panels on the roof after $85,000 have been raised. Bergkamp said the movement would be extremely beneficial to not only the environment, but also to the school.
The system he is attempting to put in place would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by about 290 times per year, Bergkamp said. However, besides the environmental aspect, this system would save Maize High School roughly $36,000 per year on electricity costs.
For Bergkamp, a physics and chemistry teacher, the movement doesn’t stop at Maize High School. In fact, the goal is to never reach an end to this movement. After Maize High School runs completely on solar power, he said he wants to use the money they save to put solar panels on Maize South High School. And then the middle schools. And then the grade schools.
The savings for the district if all the schools are run by solar panels? An estimated $200,000 per year.
The ball is already rolling for this massive eco-friendly project. In fact, Bergkamp said roughly $55,000 of funds have already been gathered purely from donations, which he began receiving in the middle of January. Bergkamp and his team are on their way to their first goal of getting about $85,000 by August to get the first set of solar panels on the roof.
Most of these donations have come from Bergkamp’s former students at Maize High School.
“There’s been maybe two or three that I don’t know who they are,” Bergkamp said.
Bergkamp said one of the coolest parts about this movement he created has been being able to reunite with former students from his 24 years of teaching who want to help.
“The vast majority of this money has come from small donations from my former students, because they’re excited about it,” Bergkamp said. “They want to give back to Maize High School. They want to be a part of something that they see as something that’s very important and very powerful.”
The movement, Bergkamp said, has no negative side effects.
“There is no downside to this project,” Bergkamp said.
This is a movement that Bergkamp said he hopes will go far beyond the Maize school district and that other schools and districts will see this change and take note. The benefits are undeniable, he said.
“This isn’t about Maize High School,” Bergkamp said. “And this isn’t even about the Maize district. This is about starting a shift in how public schools generate electricity.”
Justin Reif, freshman in mechanical engineering, said he was excited to hear about the project.
“To me, it’s really cool to see how the things I learn here at K-State about engineering are being put to use to create a difference in the real world,” Reif said.
Drew Goddard, freshman in biological systems engineering, said he loves seeing a real world application of the knowledge he is currently gaining. Goddard said he is very interested to see this movement spread to schools all over Kansas, perhaps even K-State.
“K-State uses so much more power than people think the university actually does,” Goddard said.
Bergkamp said no matter what people believe about climate change or environmental issues, this is a movement they can still get on board with solely because of how much money it will save the school district.
“I can’t change the world,” Bergkamp said. “But I can change my little corner of it, and that’s what I’m trying to do with this project.”