School project shines light on LEDs
Shaun Valente will enlighten his eighth-grade students about modern electricity, thanks to a grant from FirstEnergy Corp.
Valente is one of only 18 teachers in Pennsylvania to be awarded a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) grant. He will use the $500 to instruct his technology students about the U.S. trend toward LED lighting as old-fashioned bulbs fade away.
“LED lights are much more energy-efficient than regular bulbs,” explained Valente, who has taught technology classes for 10 years at Laurel Highlands Middle School in Uniontown. “But LEDs cost more than traditional incandescent bulbs.”
His students will learn how LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs differ from incandescent light bulbs, which date back to the 1880s when they were first successfully manufactured by U.S. inventor Thomas Edison and English physicist Joseph Wilson Swan.
He will also explain how LEDs and incandescents are different from CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights), the “curly” light bulbs that are the mainstay for lighting in many American homes in recent years.
Valente stressed that LEDs use less wattage, generate less heat and far outlast any other form of lighting. For example, a 6-watt LED produces the same amount of light as a 40-watt incandescent, using minimal energy.
LEDs can last more than 30,000 hours, while CFL “curlies” burn between 6,000 and 15,000 hours. Incandescents average only 1,000 hours by comparison.
As far back as he can remember, Valente has been learning about technology, blowing breakers and designing things. While growing up in Republic (near Brownsville), he was taught by a role model — his neighbor, Michael Monestersky, who owned a TV repair shop.
“Mr. Monestersky was extremely intelligent and knew how to repair any type of animate circuitry or whatever else he had to fix,” Valente said. “He showed me that something perceived as broken really isn't.”
Valente was in seventh grade when he first discovered that he wanted to teach technology education. He made an elaborate letter holder for his parents, Bob and Marlene Valente, and was hooked.
“The coolest thing I ever made was a cockpit designed around the ‘Top Gun' video game,” he remembered. He made it with an Atari hand controller hooked into a Nintendo controller.
“It was furnished with a comfortable seat and had a dashboard with other lights and gadgets. Some were useless but they looked operational. It felt like flying an actual jet,” he said. “It was awesome, especially at the age of 13!”
Such adventures in technology set the tone for Valente's education. After graduating in 1996 from Brownsville High School, he earned a bachelor of science in Technology Education from California University of Pennsylvania.
Even though many people still refer to his classes as “shop,” state education standards require a much broader curriculum compared to the old days of “wood shop” and “metal shop.”
It is unfortunate, Valente said, that state funding cuts have endangered tech-ed classes because STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — job creation is expected to outpace non-STEM job creation by a lot in the near future.
The FirstEnergy grant program is sponsored by the corporation to foster STEM education. FirstEnergy provides power to 10 distribution companies in Maryland, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Greensburg-based West Penn Power Co.
“FirstEnergy is proud to provide these grants to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for students,” said Dee Lowery, FirstEnergy spokesperson. “Each year, we receive outstanding applications and again this year had a difficult time choosing the winners.”
Valente is the only Fayette County teacher to receive the STEM grant; the closest others qualifying were two schools in Westmoreland County (one in Jeannette, the other in Latrobe) and one in Somerset County.
“Technology education today is taking shop a step further,” said Valente, 34, who lives in Republic with his wife, Stacey, and their 2 1⁄2-year-old son, Jacob. (The couple also has a baby on the way.)
His enthusiasm for what he does is as electric as the LED light lesson he is teaching.
“My students leave with the pride that they have made something from nothing,” Valente pointed out. “They explore the drill press, the scroll saw and the belt sander. They make electrical circuits. Anything that you construct contains either a structure or electricity. We focus on both.”
Under his guidance, seventh-graders master a wooden tic-tac-toe project; once that project is perfected, they move on to battery-powered clocks that are cut in unique shapes, sanded, colored and given a shiny finish with water-based Minwax gloss.
In addition to learning about electricity, this year's eighth-graders will fabricate a new project designed by Valente: a gumball machine with a glass top and wooden bottom. “The project is still in the design phase; it will be completed during the current semester.”
If nothing else, LHMS technology students leave with a practical skill they will use all their lives. “About 97 percent of my students learn how to measure,” Valente pointed out. “That is an accomplishment in itself!”
Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mt. Pleasant council picks police chief
- Connellsville Recreation Board looks for more choices at Movies at East Park
- Masontown man Packroni identifies defendant Harris as attacker
- Fayette County man pleads guilty to attempted homicide for stabbing during argument
- Rabies clinic for dogs, cats set for Saturday in Uniontown
- ‘Hairspray Jr.’ comes to Connellsville
- Big things happening for FRIENDS of Carnegie Free Library
- St. Rita of Cascia Roman Catholic Church marks centennial in Connellsville
- Disruptive cold continues
- Temp slowly rising in Fay-West area
- Western Pa. nonprofits roll dice on casino company grants