DTE and Kettering "Get Energized!"

Sep 15, 2011

High school students came to Kettering for a week to "Get Energized" and learn more about sustainable and green energy technologies, including nuclear power.

The DTE Energy Foundation supported Kettering University’s sustainable energy pre-college program for a second year. Get Energized!—a week-long summer camp—introduces high school students to the need for sustainable and green energy technologies, including nuclear power.

High school students are exposed to state of the art sustainable energy facilities and equipment and interface with energy professionals to explore careers in sustainable energy. The program provides hands-on activities, field trips and a focus on sustainable energy transformation as a foundation for chemistry, physics and general science. Many students attend to get a better feel for what Kettering has to offer.

Greg, a senior at Romeo High, said it was his first time on Kettering’s campus. He’s interested in engineering and chemistry, and his father is an alumnus.  “I wanted to check out the camp (Get Energized!) to see how the university works. I learned a lot of new stuff about fuel cells. He’s also interested in state universities, but likes the personal attention at Kettering.  

The DTE Energy Foundation supports future-oriented educational initiatives and specifically funded the development of the nuclear energy module of Get Energized! Dr. Ahmad Pourmovahed, professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Program Director, lectured on how nuclear power plants work and the sustainability of nuclear energy. “Over the years my work has become less theoretical and more practical as energy issues have moved to the forefront,” said Pourmovahed, citing the ongoing worldwide nuclear power debate.

With Japan’s earthquake and tsunamis that sparked a host of nuclear disasters in March, the dialogue was lively. Dr. Pourmovahed led the curious students in a discussion that dissected the failure model of Japan’s nuclear infrastructure. A compare and contrast exercise established that Fermi 2, DTE Energy’s nuclear power plant in Newport, isn’t in danger of the same catastrophe as the plants in Japan. According to Gerry Anderson, President and CEO of DTE Energy Fermi 2 has a later stage design. At a press conference in March, 2011, Anderson stated that the design of Fermi 2 “. . .incorporated a host of safety systems and safety system design modifications that were not deployed in the Japanese reactor.”

After the nuclear lecture and discussion, Dr. Prem Vaishnava, professor of Applied Physics, engaged the students with a hands-on demonstration of how different materials shield radiation. He explained that ionizing radiation consists of three types. Alphas are heavy particles traveling short distances and are easily absorbed—even by a paper. Betas are free electrons traveling farther in air. They can be stopped by a thin sheet of aluminum, but can pass through a single sheet of paper. Gammas are high energy photons and are the most penetrating. Depending on their energy, gammas can penetrate lead and concrete. After being assured that the materials they were handling were perfectly safe, the students experimented with the radiation absorption properties of gamma rays and graphed the results of their findings.

During the Get Energized! week, students also learned about biofuels, geo-hydro, solar and wind energy, fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. Through the DTE Energy Foundation’s support the participants were given the opportunity to better understand the global direction of green energy. By comparing standard fossil fuels to alternative energy sources the newest generation is gaining a foundation to move forward in our world’s quest for sustainability and clean energy.

For more information about Get Energized! or any of Kettering University’s pre-college programming click here

For more information about the DTE Energy Foundation see their website.

Written by Eve Vitale