Lessons in sustainable energy

Jul 27, 2007

In the wake of rising oil and gas prices, Kettering's new pre-college program focused on sustainable energy lets students explore alternative ways to power-up.

As the demand for energy increases, the United States seeks a more cost-effective way to energize the nation, to conserve the Earth's natural resources and better protect the environment.

High school students in grades 9-12 traveled from across the nation to get a first-hand look into sustainable energy during the 2007 Sustainable Energy Pre-College Program, which ran from July 16 to 27 at Kettering University.

Dr. Ahmad Pourmovahed, program director of the Sustainable Energy Pre-College Program and professor of Mechanical Engineering, said students are increasingly interested in sustainable energy. "Sustainable energy is renewable and unlimited unlike natural gas and coal," he explained.

Examples of sustainable energy include solar, wind, hydro-electric and bio fuels. Products such as oil, natural gas and coal, also known as fossil fuels, are the remains of plant and animal material that are extracted from Earth and are generally considered non-renewable.

"We are clearly going to run out of fossil fuels eventually," Pourmovahed said. When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is released and further contributes to environmental issues such as global warming and the greenhouse effect. And according to Pourmovahed, "The only way to slow that down or reverse it is to use renewable energy."

Kettering's Sustainable Energy Pre-College Program featured lectures on topics including careers in sustainable energy, the demand for new technology in the form of hybrid vehicles and energy extracted from natural resources such as the sun and wind.

A number of Kettering faculty members shared their expertise during the program. Dr. Prem Vaishnava, professor of Applied Physics, taught students about solar and wind energy. "Wind sources in Nebraska alone could produce enough energy to power the entire country," he said. The downside is that some of the technologies are expensive. Current research efforts are focused on cultivating sustainable energy in a cost-effective way.

Automotive applications of sustainable energy, such as the use of fuel cells used in some hybrid vehicles, were also covered, according to Pourmovahed.

Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering Brenda Lemke guided students to assemble plastic cars powered by hydrogen and oxygen, the elements used to power certain types of fuel cells.

Joe Bruzgul, a senior in high school, traveled from his home in New York to visit Kettering after a friend told him about his positive experience attending the University. Bruzgul said during the program he learned how fuel cells work. "I also learned how to 'stack' them up to create more voltage," he said.

Frederick Simpson of Flint heard about the sustainable energy program through an alternative scholarship program at his school. Simpson said he had learned how fuel cells are powered. "There are no harmful emissions at all from fuel cells," Pourmovahed said.

Maaliek Harris-Carter, a 13 year-old student from Flint said that after his experience at Kettering he feels hydrogen is a better alternative to gas and oil. "The ozone layer is depleting, we have global warming and we are dependant on foreign oil," he said.

Gavin Neff, a student from Flint agreed with his co-participant. "Sustainable energy is important for the environment, the new economy and our independence from oil," said Neff. "I think it's important we broaden our technology."

 During the program students also learned about careers in sustainable energy, biofuels, electrochemical energy and geo-hydro energy.

 The Sustainable Energy Pre-College Program is funded by a portion of a $1.6 million grant awarded to Kettering University's Fuel Cell Systems and Powertain Integration under the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative, through the United States Department of Labor. The grant was received after the efforts of Dr. K. Joel Berry, head of Kettering's Mechanical Engineering Department and director of the Kettering Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration. The program was coordinated by Virginia Hill, administrative assistant in Student Affairs.


Students who participated in the Sustainable Energy Program are:

Session 1

  • Shewood Baker of Riley
  • Leecia Barnes of Flint
  • Morgan Blue of Flint
  • Nathan Brooks of Burton
  • Jessica Bruce of Flint
  • Joe Bruzgul of Buffalo, N.Y.
  • Mark Byrd of Flint
  • Aaron Cain of Swartz Creek
  • Peter Collier of Flint
  • Ingrid Fiedler of Goodrich
  • Kyle Gamble of Flint
  • Shanequa Gray of Flint
  • Rachel Hall of Mt. Morris
  • Maalick Harris of Flint
  • Shatisla Kidd of Grand Blanc
  • Anna Macherkevich of Grand Blanc
  • Rahel Medhanie of Flint
  • Jasmyn Milton of Harper Woods
  • Anicia Mirchandi of Grand Blanc
  • Gavin Neff of Flint
  • Matthew Rose of Davison
  • Tony Scott of Flint
  • Lydia Seale of Mt. Morris
  • Frederick Simpson of Flint
  • Chilion Sims of Flint
  • Eric Tamm of Commerce Township
  • Jeffery Tiner of Flint
  • Amber Williams of Flint

Session 2

  • Heather Allen of Burton
  • LaRonn Anthony of Davison
  • Guranjan Aulakh of Rochester
  • Bill Graham Jr. of Flint
  • Cody Campbell of Attica
  • John Carter of Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Joshua Castleman of Durand
  • David Cesiel of Rochester
  • David DeCooman of Corunna
  • Justin DeSousa of Grand Blanc
  • Marc Hansen of Grand Blanc
  • Erik Hardy of Brighton
  • Olivia Hayden of Flint
  • Michael Hoeft of Capac
  • James Hunt of Flint
  • Joseph Hergenreder of Grand Blanc
  • Ferique Kothari of Farmington Hills
  • Adam Kozlowski of Corunna
  • Andrea Lawrence of Clarkston
  • Robert Lutes of Brighton
  • Benjamin Mahoney of St. Johnson
  • Matthew McArthur of Grand Blanc
  • Justin Murray of Holly
  • Chris Papcun of Shelby
  • Christopher Peterson of South Lyon
  • Sean Pimentel of Flushing
  • Guruit Sharma of Allen Park
  • Rachel Smith of Flint
  • Nicholas Sopka of Flushing
  • Kevin Stone of Clarkston
  • Benjamin St. Onge of Capac
  • Justin Swartz of St. John's
  • Samuel Tews of Marine City
  • Lance Weber of Davison
  • Brent Zittel of Grand Blanc

For more on Kettering's Sustainable Energy Pre-College Program, visit: http://www.kettering.edu/futurestudents/undergraduate/sustainable_energy_precollege.jsp

Written by Andrea Beaudoin
(810) 762-9865