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Published on October 31st, 2018 | by Cynthia Shahan

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High School Cleantech Leaders — 2018 ZFEP Winners (#CleanTechnica Interviews)

October 31st, 2018 by  


Zachary Shahan, Director & Chief Editor at CleanTechnica, earlier this year interviewed all of the 2018 Zayed Future Energy Prize (ZFEP) winners, including the youngest of the winners, the high school winners:

  • Motufoua Secondary School (MSS)
  • Vladimir Nazor
  • Bahrain Bayan School
  • Aouda Saadia School (also a winner, but not covered in this video and post)

What is sweet about this part of the ZFEP interview segment is the willingness of the educational leaders and local governments to encourage and support the students in this process, for the wellbeing of the whole community. In the process, hidden and not so hidden heavy social, economic, and community health issues are discussed. Things like the hidden causes of disease in one of the school’s roofs — asbestos — unbeknownst to students until recently.

Incredibly refreshing, the ZFEP high school finalists and winners — and the whole of the competition itself — are humanitarian down to their roots. The prize shows and offers real-world support that goes far beyond lip service for the winning communities.

Below are quotes and paraphrasing from Zachary speaking with several of the winners.

Young Winners from Motufoua Secondary School (MSS)

Image: MSS Principal Siautele Lito with Head Boy Foetasi Taukave and Head Girl Titi Moeao, via ZFEP.

“Congratulations on the win. I’m sure it feels a little wild. I will say it is very hard to win this prize. It’s very big competition, so you must have really impressed every stage of the jury and the review committees.

“What inspired you to apply for the prize. Where did you find out about it? Where did you learn about it? And then why did you feel inspired to apply?”

The response was that one ministry in their government told them about it, and the young lady noted a need for solar at their school as well, and biogas for cooking.

Zachary probes, “Did you have a strong feeling for the need for more sustainable energy?”

One of the winning students smiles sweetly, “Yes, we really did.”

Zach inquires more, “What is your project again? Can you describe it again?”

The female student explains that it’s a biogas digester in combination with an expansion of their school’s solar system capacity. There’s also a water security component.

Young Winners from Vladimir Nazor

As Zachary moves to the next group of students, he offers, “People were quite impressed with your prize because it was so diverse and creative and innovative. Can you speak a little more about what inspired you to do this and where the idea for the project came from? And a little more about the project again — what it is. “

One of the adult mentors present was the one who had the idea to apply for the prize.

The woman notes that the school initially applied for a Greenpeace solar prize. They finished in 5th place, but were eager to move on with the project. So, after the Greenpeace competition, they completed the Zayed Future Energy Prize application.

Zach leads, “What is the project again, what is the plan?”

The plan, in part, is for rooftop solar panels. They discovered asbestos in the roof and thus need to replace the roof and would like to combine it with rooftop solar.

They also discuss olive oil sales, to help purchase equipment, such as computers.

Zach inquires, “And there is also an electric vehicle component?”

Another young student responds, “Yes, electric pickup truck for our kitchen.”

Zach jumps in, “Well, we know Croatia is also the home of Tesla and Rimac, which is a top — which we love. A very hot brand, and really tremendous work with electrification.”

One of the winners notes, “And Nikola Tesla’s birthplace is only one hour.”

Zach inquires, “So, were you inspired by Nikola Tesla’s legacy? And by Rimac? Or just, was it: hey, we need a sustainable truck.”

The woman initially behind the application explains that the kids were in the Museum of Nikola Tesla in April of last year while discussing the project and the students were like, “Oh we need some electric car, because we can have one if we have solar. So, it would be a good combination.”

Zach smiles, “Well it’s becoming a kind of mecca for the EV enthusiasts — fans around the world. … There’s a lot of electric vehicle owners and fans who I think see Croatia as a kind of a point of pilgrimage they should make at some point. That they should come and see the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. I mean he’s a legend all over the world now. … I think some of his dreams are coming to reality, but it’s after a long delay.

“So any more on the inspiration for the project, the electric pickup, the solar — anything else on where the feeling to jump into it …”

The teacher again highlights olive trees and an aim to plant more olive trees for olive oil, which she highlights is very good for your health. In other words, it adds one more component to the sustainability initiative.

Zach responds, “So it’s about operational efficiency and sustainability and being able to turn this into a profitable business.”

Young Winners from Bahrain Bayan School

Zachary moves on to the next group of student winners and introduces. The student group leader starts off, “So, our project is an Ecolab 360. Our goal is to create an education platform for others who are inspired to follow in our footsteps. So we came up with the idea of having the first ever fully self-sustained independently running cafeteria. So we tried to incorporate all the different aspects we could — that’s why it’s called 360.”

She continues that they have LED lights installed, vertical farming, greywater recycling, a biodiesel and biogas generator, a greenhouse. “So, it all flows together.” The recycled greywater is then used for the greenhouse. The crops grown in there are used in the cafeteria, and then any food waste gets broken down for the biogas and biodiesel generator.

Zach compliments her communication, “You’re a very eloquent, good communicator. Where did the idea come from and how did you find out about the prize?”

Another student responds that it was one of the board members of their school who comes to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week every year who suggested it. He told them about the prize, so they did some research and had an energy audit done for the cafeteria.

Zach points out that such extensive investigation at the start is not common — and he compliments the students for the thorough beginning step.

The student explains that the three of them come from different fields — environmental, biology, chemistry — and they combined all their knowledge to come up with EcoLab 360.

The first student chimes in again to explain their school had a couple of solar panels already, so they thought, “What could be the next step?” It does not make sense to use non-renewable energy anymore. There is concern that if the switch is not made now, people won’t have access to clean water, etc.

Zach asks, “Is there much concern about global warming and climate change in Bahrain? Is there a lot of stress about it?”

The student points out that Bahrain is one of the few countries in the GCC not as dependent on oil. They get money from many different things. But she agrees, yes, obviously there is a tension concerning climate change.  “But if we all work together, we can come up with a solution.”

The second student rejoins the discussion: “It’s more about focusing on the solutions and what we can do. Part of our project Ecolab 360 is that we wanted it to be an educational platform for the students and for the community around us. So, having the sustainable cafeteria and teaching the children about green technology, sustainable development, and how they can achieve that — that was what really what was most important to us. That was our focus, because we wanted the students to know that, for our generation, it’s our time to take action and to kind of find solutions.”

Zach continues, “The butterfly effect, that’s what they kept saying. Well, thank you very much. Congratulations on the win and thank you for what you’re doing for the world and your community.”

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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing by doing research as a social cultural and sometimes medical anthropology thinker. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education. Eventually becoming an organic farmer, licensed AP, anthropologist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)



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