Faculty at Seminole State College of Florida hope to “green” technical students’ skills and expand non-science majors’ knowledge of environmental science in ways that pique their interest in STEM careers.
The mechanism to accomplish both tasks is a new 18-credit, six-course Sustainable Engineering Certificate. The certificate is the centerpiece of EMERGE-Establishing a Means for Effective Renewable/Green Energy, a project that recently received an Advanced Technological Education grant from the National Science Foundation.
Principal Investigator Jason Gaschel hopes the certificate program, which begins in Fall 2015, will help graduates differentiate themselves when they look for jobs and provide a framework for his college and others to add environmental sustainability content throughout their programs.
Gaschel, interim associate dean of the Center for Engineering and Design at Seminole State, has taught about hybrid vehicle technologies and is interested in alternative fuels for autos and homes. For several years he and his colleagues have discussed the possibility of creating a program for alternative energy technicians.
However, their conversations with employers did not find a strong demand for technicians who focus exclusively on hybrid vehicles in automotive technology or alternative energy sources in construction technology.
“Green jobs are out there, but in emerging areas I do not see the data for alternative energy technicians,” Gaschel said, explaining that employers want technicians with “green” knowledge woven into their technical skills.
New Certificate Offers Flexibility Across Disciplines
So he and his colleagues created the cross-disciplinary certificate. Prior to receiving the $900,000 ATE grant from the National Science Foundation in March 2015, Seminole State College obtained state approval for the certificate and began pilot tests of Sustainability in the Built Environment, the first of the six new courses.
The certificate sequence of three core courses and three electives will be flexible enough to supplement students' studies in engineering, solar, construction, environmental science, and automotive technology programs.
The core courses are: Sustainability in the Built Environment; Alternative Energy Policy; and Alternative Energy Sources.
The 10 elective courses from which students may choose range from Fundamentals of AC/DC Electricity to Studies in Engineering Technology, and Introduction to Solar Energy.
Gaschel hopes the Sustainable Engineering Certificate will be “resumé differentiating” rather than pigeon-holing for graduates.
Because the courses will also be open to non-science majors and dual-enrolled high school students, Gaschel and his colleagues hope they will provide a gateway to STEM careers for these populations.
At minimum he expects the courses will make the students “better global citizens, more aware of the issues of the day concerning energy, pollution, and sustainability.”
New EMERGE Project Builds on ATE Support of Dual Enrollment Program
The EMERGE project builds on what Seminole faculty learned with the college's first ATE project, Career Pathways in Construction, Architectural Engineering, and Design Technology.
It began in 2012 and led to the dual enrollment of 450 students at Lyman High School's Institute for Engineering, a magnet high school. The new grant will expand the college's dual enrollment outreach to a new alternative energy magnet school.
As this grant wraps up, Gaschel is preparing a report of best practices for developing effective dual enrollment programs. "Listening to your partner," is his number one best practice.
The Career Pathways project also includes a week-long summer workshop on Seminole's campus that is open to all high school students in the region. This year's workshop focuses on alternative energy.
A video highlighting the high school students' work on quad copter drones during the 2014 campus workshop is at https://www.seminolestate.edu/nsf-ate