Kentucky's First Energy Clubs Blossom in a Year
Kentucky Energy Club Coordinator, Bree McCarney, began the fledgling clubs in November of 2010 with nothing - not even a phone. When she arrived, CAER's administrative offices were in the middle of a renovation. For her first several weeks, she used her own phone, laptop, email address, and furniture.
From such inauspicious beginnings, she has managed to create a strong Kentucky Energy Club with chapters chartered at several colleges and universities around the state. So far, they reside at the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, and Ashland Community College. Additionally, students at Berea, Centre, Western Kentucky University, and Murray State have shown interest.
So, what is an energy club and who is in it? According to Evan Schroader, President of UK's chapter and a senior in mechanical engineering, "The energy club's purpose is to educate ourselves and the community on all things energy. We do this through hosting energy related seminars once a month led by professionals in the field, as well as traveling to different places for site tours. So far, we have hosted speakers like Kate Shanks (state renewable), and Tom FitzGerald (environmental attorney) and have toured Cooperstown Power Plant and gone underground at Riverview mine; we have even had dinner with the Secretary of Energy for the state, Dr. Len Peters. These are incredible experiences that will literally shape my career decisions. The great thing about the energy club is that it isn't specifically designed just for engineers but geared to accommodate everyone. There aren't any students at the university that wouldn't benefit from having some knowledge towards the energy field."
The outreach portion has been really satisfying to the students. Activities have included working with statewide middle school 'mathcounts' students on an energy night of creating edible cars and ping-pong launchers; helping professional researchers demonstrate algae use to clean up CO2 in power plants at a local middle school; and planting hundreds of trees with Bluegrass Conservation.
"It is important to know that this is not the 'UK Energy Club.' It is the Kentucky Energy Club," says McCarney. "Our state's indigenous energy resources are found in far eastern and western Kentucky. The students who attend college in those regions have an even greater investment in energy in some ways."
Supporting McCarney's statement, there is the great interest shown so far in schools like EKU, whose faculty advisor Dr. Bruce Pratt provides great support by headquartering the EKU club at the Craft Center, where he serves as director. EKU's Craft Center is wholly related to developing biomass and biofuels for energy. Also, Ashland Community College has several projects underway, including an Energy Walk and a functioning wind turbine located directly across from the main entrance.
With a year of experience under her belt, McCarney is now ready to tackle the rest of the state's schools, with the goal of creating self-sustaining chapters across the Commonwealth.
"There is still so much we can do," says McCarney. "The students want to continue broadening their perspectives, along with educating their peers on energy issues. They understand that collaboration and communication are key to gaining insight and experience. It's not about me. It's about the students and their faculty advisors. Their imagination and determination are the key to the energy clubs' success."