June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Energy Conversion and Conservation
14.7.1 - 14.7.13
A Campus-Wide Course on Micro Renewable Energy Systems
This paper describes the intellectual and pedagogical issues, and results from two teachings of a campus-wide course dealing with a highly interdisciplinary topic: the possibility of developing renewable power generator devices that are suited to a single family. The course is set at the senior elective level in Engineering, but it is open to students at the junior level and above from any College on a campus that includes Colleges of Management, Architecture, and Sciences, and a unique college that includes Economics, Public Policy, International Affairs, Modern Languages and History of Science and Technology.
The objective of this paper is to describe the development and initial experiences with a course- laboratory package suitable for students from all schools on a university campus on an issue of global importance. The intellectual challenge is in tackling the core learning issues for such a course across disciplines, and tailoring the contents to diverse interests and talents, integrating hands-on building and testing with high-level concept development. The course has to attract students all over campus, while ensuring excellent value to all.
Some believe that the Hubbert Peak Oil1 Armageddon is upon us. Others hold that the recent rise in energy prices is one of numerous transient oil price spikes2 driven by chance or even manipulation. Either way, the present situation is similar to the Sputnik launch in its potential to inspire concerted action towards the long-delayed dream of energy independence. Through most of 2008 in US cities, the price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline3 exceeded the projected pump price of the energy equivalent in hydrogen. Coupled with growing fears of Global Warming4 and the reality of carbon penalties5 and credits6, this poses an excellent opportunity to bring college students and faculty into a project-based learning environment where everyone wants to participate in achieving real results. The intellectual question is how to use this opportunity to demonstrate how well people can learn and integrate knowledge that will serve them for a lifetime.
Our course is based on the idea that enabling Figure 1: High-intensity solar converter plus public participation is the fastest route to wind turbine. Courtesy Laura Hershberger. sustainable energy independence. For instance,
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