Student perspectives GREEN in Iceland—Learning outside of a classroom By Peter Robinson A common shortcoming in today’s engineering programs is the inability to travel abroad or learn in a new environment. The rigid curriculum forces predetermined classes to be taken during particular semesters, and international studies require an additional year of commitment and tuition. Many universities are trying to tackle this problem by loosening the reins on class scheduling. However, this still does not allow everyone to sculpt a perfect schedule that allows studying abroad. But the Global Renewable Energy Education Network (GREEN) program acknowledges universities’ common constraint and works to make it possible for everyone to study and experience new destinations during a traditional education. As the name implies, the program aims to promote renewable energy studies to students in new environments by submersing them in the culture of another country. The program understands the importance of internships and traditional studies, and it believes that studying abroad can be valuable to students through hands-on involvement in a program lasting less than two weeks. This curriculum aims to provide a unique experience by combining intensive education, adventure excursions, culture emersion, and a service learning project. The program’s organizers began as students and have since built this innovative idea to a fully fledged program with more than 1,000 alumni. Program selection began with Costa Rica, which boasts 93 percent electricity generation from renewable energy, and then migrated to Iceland, where that number reaches 100 percent. By teaming up with the Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavik University and South Iceland Adventure, the program provides credit-worthy classes inside and outside a classroom. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Iceland over spring break to attend the GREEN program. Touring geothermal energy plants, large-scale hydropower plants, and micro hydropower plants really showed me how I, as a materials science engineer, could improve the processes and materials used in these industries. The GREEN program gave me the opportunity to discover what I am truly interested in—the materials used for improving efficiency and minimizing environmental impacts of the energy industry. For instance, turbine blades in a geothermal plant have a short lifespan. But, that life can be increased by depositing a coating for erosion or corrosion resistance onto the blades or producing the blades out of a ceramic composite material altogether. During my trip, I also learned that Iceland is testing onshore wind turbines, but wind power is difficult to capture on the island because of the high wind speeds. Several material fixes could be implemented into wind turbine technology to optimize for higher wind speeds and increase overall energy output. This experience was incredible—it allowed me to interact with people from various cultures and form lasting relationships with like-minded individuals from across the world. The GREEN Program captures more than a traditional study abroad program in less than two weeks, making it a once-in-alifetime experience for an engineering student like myself. Peter Robinson is an undergraduate student in materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He currently serves as the PCSA Outreach chair, vice president of the Penn State chapter of Material Advantage, and herald of the Penn State chapter of Keramos. Robinson would like to thank his father for introducing him to ceramics at a young age. n Flexible ceramics and fractureresistant friendships By Derek Miller My three summer internships at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, were absolutely irreplaceable. What had the biggest effect on me was the pervasive “we can do that” attitude at NASA, no matter how impossible something may seem. That calm and calculated approach relies on principles of science and engineering to break an overwhelming mission into small, solvable problems. My last two summers at NASA Glenn were spent working on a new type of flexible thermal insulation for space vehicles. Aluminosilicate aerogels are one of the best thermal insulators. They are stable above 1,000°C, but incredibly fragile. By making a composite of these aerogels and 30 www.ceramics.org | American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 93, No. 5 Credit: W. Gregory Robinson Spring 2014 GREEN program participants hike Iceland’s Sólheimajökull glacier.
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