Who he is. Mark Sholin, a graduate student from the University of Arizona, is Co-Founder and CEO of Pragmatic Energy. He received his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, and is now a Graduate Research Associate at ASU’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology.
With all the current hype about biofuels, one might assume that biofuels have only been around for a short period of time. Quite the contrary. Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, constructed his engines so that they were able to run on peanut oil. Later on, Henry Ford’s Model T cars were designed to use biofuels derived from hemp to run.
We're surrounded by it every second of every day. We hear it on the news, see it on our way to our dreaded math class—it seems to follow us around like some late night stalker. Even though we are constantly exposed to it, most of the time, we have no idea what it is or how it ties into our lives as students.
Most of us decide to leave these kinds of things to the grown-ups and keep our focus on school, work, and the rest of the things college life includes (you know what I'm talking about).
But, is this how it should be?
As future industry leaders, entrepreneurs, taxpayers, and voters—we need to become involved in this topic now. It's our future too—we need to become informed and active members of society if we want to live in a clean, self-sustaining world.
So, how can we actually get students interested in renewable energy?
Clubs and Organizations
Many campus-involved students try to look into any and every club and organization available so they can become further submersed in campus life. It looks good on a resume, they meet new and exciting people, it opens up new job opportunities, and they build personal and professional skills all at the same time. Offering renewable energy clubs will get students further exposed to this topic and allow them to voice their opinion and take action.
Arizona State University currently offers courses, majors, minors, and certificates in sustainability. These classes give the students an in depth look at sustainability, how it affects the world around them, and gives them ideas on how they incorporate that into their own personal and professional lives.
Seminars and Events
Upcoming events like Changing Planet: Adapting to Our Water Future gives students to take part in an intellectual discussion about the well being of our planet. Past events included The Future Energy Abyss, Talking Sustainability with American Public Media's Marketplace, and America's Energy Challenges.
Arizona State’s commitment to sustainability grows stronger every day, and we prove it. Past, present, and future solar projects at ASU not only demonstrated ASU’s determination to power their buildings with clean, renewable energy, they also taught students and the community about the important of sustainability and the role that it is going to play in the future.
With over 300 days of sun per year in this state, Arizona is a prime location for solar energy studies. Arizona State University has just created a new graduate program in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy for this very thing: Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization. It is a PSM (Professional Science Master’s) program offering both technical and non-technical aspects to a student’s graduate studies.
The program’s objectives are to prepare students for careers in industry, government and the non-profit sector in terms of solar energy policies, implementation, and/or utilization. Students involved in the program will have an applied, collaborative project under the supervision of a mentor that will focus on high-impact solutions to solar energy and commercialization problems. As part of the applied project, students will interact and engage with government policy makers and solar industry representatives. Students will develop multi-disciplinary problem solving and critical thinking skills from both technical and non-technical areas. A full-time student can expect to complete the program in a year. For more information about the PSM program click here.
Additionally, ASU’s Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization PSM is being featured at the Expo21xx showcase as part of an exhibition on renewable energy. ASU has a reputation for being a leader in adapting campuswide sustainable technologies and has a number of renewable energy research projects on display as well as sustainability programs. Check out ASU’s Expo21xx profile here.
Take a look at some of the recent solar research occurring at ASU.
Algae research is on the rise at many universities around the country. Although funding is scarce, knowledge and persistence is abundant in many different colleges. Their determination to turn algae into biofuels is something that should be recognized within their communities and throughout the nation. Each day, these colleges are making history and getting us one step closer to a clean energy future. Let's take a closer look at universities who are stepping up and becoming role models in the algae research biz.
In the small Navajo town of Nataanii, Arizona there sits a white orb. It is a bioenergy dome, an anonymous gift given to the Navajo people. The dome is a second prototype of its kind created by Oregon-based Pacific Domes International. The dome offers sustainable solutions for both food and energy.
Here is how it works: the algae and duckweed create biomass through solar energy conversion. The dome itself maintains an interior “eternal springtime” climate and has consistent, natural sunlight. Harvested plants are composted through a methane digester, and the methane is fed into a noise-free “Bear Genset” which then converts the thermal heat into kW energy. The by-products are cycled back into the dome as plant fertilizer. The only emissions, CO2 and water vapor, are also cycled back into the dome as plant food. The dome only requires an hour of maintenance once or twice per day and can be adjusted to fit specific energy needs. Additionally, inventor Rudy Behrens was a recipient of the “Best Renewable Energy Award” at the New Jersey Technology Council Venture Conference.
The Navajo Bioenergy Dome is already producing astonishing results. The pod is completely self-sustaining, and when used at full capacity, the dome has the ability to produce about 11 pounds of organic vegetables per day, about 100-150 pounds of fish per year, and enough methane to power a modern home. There are multileveled trays of hydroponic vegetables used to supply food for fish in the pond. The fish farm, unlike most, is self-cleaning and does not require chemicals. Together, the fish and vegetables supply a clean and consistent food source for the reservation.
Rex Lee Jim, Vice President of the Navajo Nation, is excited about the opportunities the dome presents. He hopes it will bring a more ancestral diet to the reservation, and provide a way to move younger people away from junk food while also creating a renewable, sustainable power source.