Eric Johnson has spent the past 14 years teaching students at Laguna Creek High School how to build “green” or alternative energy projects.
They constructed solar cases or portable solar energy devices to donate to disadvantaged youth in Sierra Leone.
Students also designed and built solar powered boats to compete against high school and college students in SMUD’s annual solar regatta, build hydropower generators in 5-gallon buckets, and helped build tiny houses or portable ones. Bedroom houses for homeless veterans.
“We train students for the workforce, and it doesn’t have to be green energy,” Johnson said of his school’s Green Energy Technology Academy (GETA). “Are these students who can think creatively? Can you design? Can solve the problem? Can you work together? Even if they do not rely on green electricity, we are still proud of the professionally mature students and post-secondary students that we manage. “
Academy students, however, often had to work on their projects in cramped classrooms and be careful with large materials.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve taken a 2×4 and done it all the way to the ceiling,” Johnson said as he mimicked an act of not trying to hit a board with a ceiling.
The Academy will have a new 6,000 square foot home on the Laguna Creek High Campus. There will be a workshop room as well as two classrooms and the much-needed high ceiling. The facility is slated to open next month when the Elk Grove Unified School District high schools begin their new academic year.
“It’s super exciting because there are so many options for everything,” said GETA teacher Dave Collins. “The kids used to want to stay after school and now they really want to. The hardest part is keeping them up and running, and if the (facility) looks good they’ll want to be here. “
Johnson gave the citizen a tour of the facility’s construction site on July 2. The building is adjacent to the Laguna Creek High tennis courts at the rear of the campus.
Johnson showed a large room that spans most of the building and is lit by sunlight shining through “solar tubes” on the roof. Teacher said that “accordions” or room dividers will be installed to separate the classroom and workshop area. There will also be booths dedicated to welding projects.
“We used to literally pull everything out of the classroom and set it up,” cried Johnson as they welded in their former classroom.
It was three years from the start of the project to the “key handover,” Johnson said. Construction of the building will be funded with $ 4 million from the school district and Proposition 51 funds, he said.
“I wanted to make everything more robust, relevant, and timely,” said Johnson.
He said the academy, which is a four-year program, trains up to 170 students each year.
The teacher sees the new home of GETA as a milestone in his 30-year teaching career.
“So I am withdrawing from this place,” said Johnson.
However, he found that he is still a long way from retiring.
“I’ll be 53 this summer, but I still have a lot of energy,” he said. “I’m not burned out at all.”