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Seminole State receives $77,000 Duke Energy grant to create mobile solar-energy lab

From left: Seminole State Trustees Jeffrey M. Bauer and Wendy Brandon; Board Vice-Chair Scott Howat; Tricia Setzer, manager of government and community relations at Duke Energy; Patty Salvatore, senior account executive for Duke Energy; President Dr. E. Ann McGee; Trustee Amy Lockhart; and Board Chairman Alex Setzer.

The Duke Energy Foundation has awarded Seminole State College of Florida a $77,000 grant to develop and implement a mobile solar-energy laboratory.

The grant will support Seminole State’s alternative energy certificate program in two ways. First, students taking Introduction to Solar Energy (ETP 2410) – which will be offered for the first time in August – will help to construct the lab as part of their coursework.

Second, the completed solar lab on wheels will support Seminole State alternative energy courses and also travel to outreach events throughout Central Florida to promote solar technology and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“Duke Energy continues to explore new and innovative methods for promoting interest in science, technology, engineering, math and sustainability,” says Tricia Setzer, manager of government and community relations at Duke Energy. “We are excited to be a part of an opportunity to help bring these disciplines to life and look forward to a collaborative partnership with Seminole State College in the future.”

“We’re pleased Duke Energy is supporting our sustainable energy program and is helping the College raise awareness about solar technology,” says Jason Gaschel, director of Academic Innovation and Emerging Technology at Seminole State. “Being mobile, this lab will make learning about renewable energy accessible to students and the community.”

The lab, which will be equipped with various types of solar panels and “smart grid” technology, will demonstrate sustainable energy relative to everyday activities, Gaschel says.

Students who complete the elective solar course will be eligible to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practioners (NABCEP) entry-level exam for certification.

The lab, which is still being designed, should be completed in 2015, Gaschel says.

The College also will partner with Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) to offer recruiting and outreach activities for high school students. This fall, students at Winter Springs High School, the SCPS magnet program for sustainable energy, will be given the opportunity to assist with the construction of the lab.

Gaschel says Seminole State is working to meet the growing workforce demand for professionals with knowledge, skills and experience in sustainable and renewable energy. The Solar Foundation predicts that solar employment will grow by 15.6 percent between November 2013 and November 2014, 10 times faster than the national average of 1.9 percent. Florida ranked No. 7 in the nation with 4,000 solar jobs.

Students who complete the elective course also will be eligible to achieve certification in sustainable energy.

Seminole State began offering an 18-credit certificate program in alternative energy in August 2013. The program is compatible with degrees in energy, physics, chemistry, construction, engineering or interior design. Courses also are available as electives for Associate in Arts (A.A.) students. 

The School of Engineering, Design and Construction provides comprehensive programs leading to professional careers in the built environment. The school, which offers three bachelor’s degrees, offers programs grounded in academic course work, site visits and practical application of industry principles.

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