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Mattituck student has solar solution to charging devices

At some point in the not-too-distant future, grateful Mattituck High School students who don’t know and had never met Piper Altman will be thanking her.

Ms. Altman, a sophomore at the school, will have left a lasting legacy in the form of solar energy.

Ms. Altman, 14, is building a solar charging station for the school so students will be able to charge their USB-powered devices outside the school building. The project is for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, the highest achievement a Girl Scout can reach.

Ms. Altman, who lives in Laurel and has an interest in engineering, expects to have the prototype completed this coming spring.

The need for such a device became apparent to her back when she was an eighth-grader on the school’s junior varsity girls tennis team. She discovered that after school, when the building was closed, there was no place for students to charge their cellphones. If they ran out of battery power, well, they were out of luck.

“I thought bringing reusable energy to my school would be a good project,” she said.

It’s an ambitious project, but not one that Ms. Altman has shied away from. She said she has been “confident from the start that I could definitely get it done.”

Those who know her don’t doubt her ability, either.

“She’s an impressive young lady,” said Mattituck High School principal Shawn Petretti, who is assisting Ms. Altman on the project along with Andrew Joinnides, owner of APJ Builder. “She’s very driven. But one of the things that makes Piper special is, yes, she has the drive and she has the intelligence, but she is such a kind and caring person and she just has such a positive attitude about things. She’s a hard person to say no to when she comes to you with an idea. When Piper knocks on the door and she has an idea, you listen to her.”

The underclassman already has built quite a résumé for herself. A high honor-roll student, she is a member of the Art Portfolio Club, DECA business club, National Art Honor Society and is on Mattituck-Laurel Library’s teen advisory board. She also holds two jobs, competes in track and field as well as tennis and, oh yeah, is a tutor for younger math students.

Ms. Altman received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award Oct. 5 for over 100 hours of community service. For her Girl Scouts Silver Award, she raised baby quail and released them into the wild as a control against ticks.

All of that and she’s not even a high school junior yet.

Ms. Altman presented her project to the Mattituck school board Oct. 13. As she outlined, a solar panel will collect energy from the sun, which will be sent to a controller that will regulate the amount of energy that is transferred to a battery. Safety features will prevent overcharging and turn off the current to the battery if it gets too hot. A battery will store enough electricity to charge 12 iPhones, even on a cloudy day.

The solar charging station will be located in a courtyard.

Piper’s proud mother, Christina, said she never questioned her daughter’s ability to complete this project.

“Not a single doubt,” she said. “When Piper sets her mind to something, Piper sees it through. She’s impressive.”