- Teacher: Ross McCurdy
- Discipline: Chemistry and Alternative Energy
- Degree: Masters in Biology, Teaching Certificate in Biology & Chemistry
- Higher Learning: Rhode Island College
- School: Ponaganset High
- State: Rhode Island
- Country: United States
When I first meet Ross it become very evident that his enthusiasm for teaching went way beyond the classroom, his desire to discover, implement, and share with his students, and others, alternative energy solutions for our changing world is his passion. Also while talking with Ross I couldn't help but think of that wonderful Disney film back in the sixties, "Son of Flubber," where Fred MacMurrayplayed the professor/scientist who invented the fantastic anti gravity substance FLUBBER. Actually they kind of bare a similar resemblance, but one thing I can say, is that Ross is the real deal.
We caught up with Ross and had a chance to get a bit more familiar with him.
Q: Ross can you give our audience a bit more about your educational background, and your life experience?
A: Right after high school in the early 80's I entered the Air Force where I trained at Defense Language Institute and eventually became Russian Linguist and served six years. After the Air Force I got into music and had a chance to play in a Rock band, travel around a bit, and basically worked in music for a while.
When I turned 30 I I kind of got bit more serious, which I think happens for a lot of young people. I decided to attend Rhode Island College (RIC) where I majored in Biology, received my degree, and teaching certificate, and was very happy to have graduated Summa Cum Laude. As I began my career as a teacher I actually returned to Rhode Island College and received my Masters, and began taking courses in chemistry, and went on to get my teaching certificate in chemistry.
Q: What inspired you to get into teaching?
A: Growing up my father was a middle school science teacher and I was exposed to what he was doing, I remember seeing his pet
alligator he would keep in the classroom, just a little guy about a foot long, along with some other interesting animals. Both my parents introduced me to Ranger Ric magazine as a kid, that a World Wildlife Federation environmentalist's magazine for children. So growing up reading that I became aware of a lot of environmental problems, and it only seemed right for me to try to help out, and try to do something about it.
Q: What sparked your excitement for alternative energy solutions?
A: One of things that I found really exciting, and inspiring was the hydrogen fuel cell technology. For years I learned that with any kind of power generation you get pollution; cars, electrical generation, you need to burn something, coal, or gasoline, or diesel. Then I learned about these fuel cells that could run on hydrogen and they were very efficient, doing a chemical reaction using a membrane, and the only emission was pure clean water! I was hooked on those and I wanted to learn more about those. I bought a fuel cell kit, and with this kit I was able to electrify water. So by putting electricity in the water with a solar panel we could produce the hydrogen needed to run the fuel cell. It's kind of closed loop system. So that is when I first got hooked on alternative energy solutions.
Q: What was one of the first alternative energy project that was brought into the classroom?
A: When we got a Ballard AirGen Fuel Cell, it was about the size of a shop vac, or an old school fat TV. And it used a tank of hydrogen and it put out 1,000 watts of energy, and had two AC outlets where we could plug in anything we wanted. The students tried it out with a bunch of shop lights and it worked out great, but it was a bitboring. So one of my students had an Eddie Van Halen guitar amplifier, stands about six feet tall, so it is about as tall as me, and it is super loud. We plugged it in, and the stundent began to play some rocking-cords on it and it sounded great, while only using 100 watts. So we had 900 more watts of electricity to start an entire band. We started a hydrogen powered band that toured around the U.S., we went to San Antonio, Texas, Palm Springs, CA, and we even did a show in Hollywood, where the students in the band got to meet Perry Farrel, the lead singer in James Addiction, and the creator of Lollapalooza, he had a biug interest in fuel cells, and hydrogen. So the next their was a natural shift, kids love Roc & Roll, and they love Hot Rods, and we wanted to make a full sized, street legal fuel cell vehicle which was out next in-class project.
Q: Ross what is your dream, what do you hope to accomplish when it comes to teaching about alternative fuels?
A: I want to show that renewable energy is here now, and it works, and it is something we can all use in one form or another, and it can make our lives better. As a teacher I hope to get kids excited about renewable energy, and sustainability and think of way they can help, while having fun doing it. For me it is all about education, demonstration, and application.
ReNewable Now's "Profiles in Excellence," did a great series with Ross McCurdy, which you can begin to view right here. For the next four weeks, we will release a new episode that will highlight this inspirational teacher that is making a difference in the classroom. We also want to take a moment to share another special video with you, and that is Ross McCurdy's milestone flight from Rhode Island to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where he is utilizing Bio-Diesel fuel. Again from all of us, your peers and students, congratulations Ross for making a difference.