Recycle Runway Blog

Sol Man: An Energy Superhero Published: 07.09.2013 at 7:15 pm by Nancy Judd

The Sol Man

This spring I had the pleasure of working with 130 sixth grade students at Ortiz middle school in Santa Fe, NM. The project combined art with science to teach energy conservation. The outcome was a new recycled costume, the Sol Man. The project was the result of a fellowship I received called Toyota TogetherGreen administered by the National Audubon Society and funded by Toyota.

Ms. Sommer’s Science Class

The project began in Erika Sommer’s 6th grade Science Class. Over a 3 week period the students learned how energy is created; where it comes from; the issues related to various energy sources; why energy conservation is important; and how to conserve electricity. Homework assignments included implementing energy efficiency projects in their homes. Students were given a home energy kit (donated by our local utility, PNM) and 100 additional compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs from a local company, Summit Electric Supply. The students replaced 274 energy intensive incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs. This will keep approximately 206,048 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Local air pollution and climate change are significantly impacted by where our energy comes from and how we use it. It’s a very essential and timely issue, one I’m pleased that the students and their families could learn about and take action around. My hope is that new lifetime habits were created.

Student Designs for Sol Man

Next the 6th grade students helped me to create an energy superhero, the Sol Man. The sculpture is made from trash generated from energy efficiency projects primarily donated by the Energy$mart Academy at the Santa Fe Community College. The scrap materials used include: building insulation, flashing, water pipe insulation, insulation fabric and tape.

In Ed Chacon’s Art Class the students drew their version of what this superhero character would look like and I used their drawings to design the garment. In Myoko Costello’s Consumer Sciences class, the 6th graders helped make the little faux solar panels that cover his cape.

Creating the Sol Man himself was a very different experience for me because well, he is a 6”2’ superhero! As most of you know, my work is quite feminine so it was a big challenge to work on this very masculine character. Luckily, my partner loves superheroes and gave me a lot of help.

The Sol Man is on display through the end of July at the Santa Fe Place Mall, a popular hangout for the kids that participated in this project. I like having my work in high traffic locations such as shopping centers as it allows a broader audience to see the sculptures and read the educational message. A large poster describing the project accompanies the Sol Man and gives viewers tips on how to save energy and money in their homes. He will continue to be exhibited in public places in Santa Fe and Albuquerque over the next year.

Student Cutting Flashing for the Cape

Media exposure was an important element of this project and I was thrilled to have two excellent articles in our local newspapers: the New Mexican and the Santa Fe Reporter. During a media day we held at the school, an unexpected thing happened. I wanted to have some video footage of the project so hired a friend who is a documentary film maker. After watching a light bulb demonstration in the science class, she told me: “As those light bulbs went on and off, a light went on in my head. I have a great idea!”

She went on to explain that she had recently been asked to make a documentary film about climate change targeted to evangelicals. She was contacted by a man who is a missionary in the evangelical community and is very upset that 2 out of 3 evangelicals don’t believe in climate change. He hired her to make a trailer to raise money for a feature length film and a 60 minute version for TV. When she saw our project she decided to include it in her documentary. So I hope that the Sol Man will continue to inspire even more people as time goes on!

Thank you very much to the following organizations and people for supporting this project:

  • Toyota funded the fellowship that I received.
  • The National Audubon Society administered the fellowship.
  • The Santa Fe Public Schools (Lisa Randal, Ellen Levy, Amy Summa) provided project coordination.
  • Erika Sommer, Ed Chacon and Myoko Costello graciously invited me into their classrooms.
  • PNM (Melissa Leymon) donated the curriculum and energy efficiency kits and helped with planning.
  • The Santa Fe Community College’s New Mexico Energy$mart Academy (Amanda Evans) supplied educational materials to the science class as well as materials to create the Sol Man.
  • The City of Santa Fe, Sustainable Santa Fe program (Katherine Mortimer) provided project support.
  • Summit Electric Supply (Mike Prada) donated 100 CFL bulbs.
  • Santa Fe Place Mall (Lance Farrell) donated space to display the Sol Man for 2 months and event planning and refreshments for the opening reception.
  • Target supplied refreshments for the opening reception.
  • KHFM (Kathleen King and Dana Childs) Radio Station advertised the event and did several interviews.
  • Santa Fe New Mexican (Robert Knott and Jane Roberts) wrote about and photographed the classroom portion of the project.
  • Santa Fe Reporter (Enrique Limón) wrote about and photographed the Sol Man.
  • Dan Radven welded the legs, arms, armature and base.
  • Nicole Morris assured the musculature was correct.
  • Elizabeth Baker captured the project on film.
  • Positive Energy (Regina Wheeler, Allan Sindelar) supplied the old solar cell that is the base for the sculpture.
  • Carl Rosenthal provided many materials used to make the Sol Man.
  • Jim and Marj Mullany provided window insulation used to create his suit.
  • Los Alamos National Bank (Kate Kennedy) is helping to fund displaying of the Sol Man over the next year.
  • Earth Care International (BJ Davis, Rose Griego) is my non-profit fiscal sponsor accepting funds for the display of the Sol Man.

I am very grateful for all the contributions that made this project a success!

Photos of Sol Man by Nicole Morris.

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