‘Fahrenheit 73’ Campaigns to Cool Classrooms

Fahrenheit 73 on Islandfunder

Although the official start of summer is still more than a month away, the weather is already turning warm. And while sunny days are great for tourists and tans, they pose a challenge to Hawaii students who struggle to study through streams of sweat.

Hawaii’s famously good weather means that Hawaii school buildings are usually open-air structures rather than built around enclosed halls like the ones you find on the mainland (and that I only knew about through TV sitcoms and movies). Yes, significant money is saved without having to install central heating to defend against the freezing cold. But that lack of climate control infrastructure is a huge problem when it comes to sweltering heat.

Unbearably hot classrooms have made headlines for years, and have prompted protests. Classrooms at Campbell High School made the evening news last year when the temperature hit 100 degrees. While the legislature and Department of Education have established a Heat Abatement Program that includes a list of schools most in need of relief, some students are taking matters into their own hands.

Fahrenheit 73” is a crowdfunding campaign to install solar-powered air conditioning units in Hawaii classrooms, starting with portable classroom building P-1 at Campbell High. The name was inspired by studies that show that the optimal temperature for learning is around 73°F.

The campaign was launched by a team of five students from both public and private schools that had participated in the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders program (previously blogged in January). The hope is to raise $19,500 in the next 31 days to secure two two hybrid Clima-Teknologies AC units.

Fahrenheit 73 on IslandFunder

How do the organizers know the system will work? The DOE already staged a successful pilot project at Waianae High School last year. For both that pilot, and this new campaign, the schools are working with local renewable energy firm GreenPath Technologies.

I should mention, I know the people at GreenPath pretty well, thanks to the company’s connections to the Hawaii ham radio community, and to their gracious participation in the last two (and hopefully the next and every) Hawaii Geek Meet events. But I only discovered the connection after reading up on “Fahrenheit 73,” which I did at the invitation of the students’ CTL mentor, Tiffany Quezada (who was previously mentioned here).

The use of solar-powered hybrid air conditioning units makes a big difference for Hawaii’s cash-strapped schools.

“The problem the school facilities run into is, while many people will donate wall units, they suck up electricity making the electricity bills double,” explains Dana Akasaki, marketing director at GreenPath. “By installing the hybrid solar air conditioners, not only are you getting cooled down classrooms, but you are not spiking the electricity bill… creating a sustainable solution for the long haul for the larger DOE carbon footprint as electricity rates don’t appear to be going down anytime soon.”

“It’s a win-win all around and we are super excited to be a part of this,” she adds. “What is inspiring is the students themselves; they are incredibly enthusiastic about this, and they are all high school seniors! I know I wasn’t thinking like this when I was a senior.”

In addition to Greenpath, the DOE, and the CTR, supporters of “Fahrenheit 73” include Hawaii 3Rs, an initiative launched in 2001 by the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye to “Repair, Remodel and Restore Hawaii’s public schools.” But the project is part of a growing trend of schools turning to platforms like Kickstarter to get things done. “Fahrenheit 73” is being hosted on IslandFunder, which I covered when it launched in October 2013, and which promotes itself as a crowdfunding site just for Hawaii.

Akasaki said her company is asking its own vendors and contacts to pitch in, since the more money that is raised, the more air conditioners that can be installed in overheated classrooms. She said she saw the need for relief first hand.

“As we got to interview some of the students on campus and teachers, they had a legit point,” she said. “Why do working adults have regulations for what are ‘humane working conditions,’ but for student classrooms it can be upwards of 90 degrees and that is considered okay?”

The “Fahrenheit 73” crowdfunding campaign just launched, and has raised $1,545 so far. That includes $1,000 from its first “Newton Sponsor,” Gentry Homes. and $500 from its first “Kelvin Sponsor,” Pizza Hut/Taco Bell Hawaii. Reward levels range from $20 for a social media mention and a sticker to a $9,500 “Fahrenheit Sponsor” that gets a big pile of goodies as well as an engraved plaque for covering one complete solar AC unit. The campaign ends on May 16, and in order to rally the community, the team is hosting a launch party at Kakaako Agora on Wednesday.

For more information, visit the “Fahrenheit 73” campaign page, or connect with the team on Facebook.

The Students of Fahrenheit 73

Photos courtesy “Fahrenheit 73.”

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