Sitting on top of an academic building at Purdue University Calumet is a vertical axis wind turbine that on a windy day, generates the same amount of energy in one hour that it takes to light a 50-watt light bulb for 20 hours.
Though the turbine does its job by generating energy, it fulfills a much greater purpose—enabling students to get hands on experience that will qualify them to develop and maintain the growing number of wind turbines across the country, Professor Dave Kozel said.
Institutions of higher education across Northwest Indiana are placing more emphasis on teaching students about global changes, their environmental foot prints and careers that are adapting to these ever changing needs.
Schools like Valparaiso University are leading the way in solar energy research through its James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility—research that’s conducted by faculty and undergraduates.
Just down the street at Ivy Tech Northwest, the campus features an energy lab, solar panels that assist students in learning about solar and wind, and a program that teaches students smart grid technology.
“We have three new smart grid trainers and we are using them on our Electric Line training program,” said Michael Jones, program chair for the school’s energy technology program. “With these three trainers, we can take power from the plant of wind fields and route it through the customer. With this in mind, we can teach students of variable electric rates and how they can reduce power consumption on the grid.”
For Erin Argyilan, associate professor in the Geosciences Department at Indiana University Northwest, working with students and teaching them green practices helps push for changes on their own campuses as well.
Through her Global and Environmental Change course, students focus on building a carbon budget – measuring the carbon footprint of students and staff that occurs through simple college operations. Their discoveries have prompted the university to make changes on campus, such as installing solar compactors and water bottle filling machines , and installing green space where a former university building once stood but was removed after flooding in 2008.
“Our students’ presentations have led to the creation of a sustainability committee on our campus, and that group has been working to implement more green practices,” Argyilan said.
The wind turbine at Purdue University Calumet is just one of several changes the university has made to promote green technology among staff and students. Like IUN, Purdue has installed water bottle fillers and water coolers, and have examined the school’s energy usage.
“We’ve gone through and looked at our lighting, looked at our air handling equipment and have made upgrades on those,” he said. “We retrofitted most of our lights to energy efficient lighting, and every time we get to do new construction, we always look to see what’s new with technology and is the most energy efficient.”
Universities aren’t the only ones taking the lead in educating the next generation of energy users, however. In addition to green initiatives for both customers and companies, NIPSCO has forged a relationship with Purdue University.
“In this region, we have a very strong partnership with NIPSCO to develop the smart grid lab, and they have invested over $100,000 in equipment and countless human resources to assist the program achieve its ultimate goal,” Jones said.
For Dan Waldrop, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 697, staying on top of technology as it emerges is essential to training electrical workers.
IBEW 697’s building itself serves as a teaching tool. The Mississippi Street building in Merrillville incorporates high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and makes use of LED technology and daylight harvesting.
The sustainable building houses the state-of-the-art apprenticeship school designed for the continued expansion of future energy technologies, Waldrop said.
“We’re also working on the woods behind the building, eradicating invasive species,” he said. “That is a philosophy we built for us that encourages us to be stewards of the environment.”