ASU, Australian Solar Institute collaborate on projects to advance solar energy solutions

February 21, 2013

As part of a global cause to bolster solar power technologies, Arizona State University researchers are taking part in three new solar energy projects funded by the Australian and U.S. governments. The investment for these projects includes $68 million for two, eight-year research programs and $15.5 million for 11 collaborative projects.

This collaboration is part of the United States Solar Energy Collaboration, which includes the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative that is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Arizona sunset Download Full Image

“ASU is delighted to join Australian and U.S. researchers on the development of solar energy technologies and projects to spur innovation and identify solutions to global energy challenges,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “This collaborative initiative will accelerate renewable energy research and help reduce solar electricity costs by increasing the speed of development of related technologies.”

ASU is involved in both of the eight-year, national research programs and one of the research collaborations. The three projects with ASU involvement are:

• The U.S. Australia Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (USAIAP), which will work to develop next-generation photovoltaic technologies and help to provide a pipeline of opportunities for performance increases and cost reductions.

Partners include Australia National University, University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of Queensland, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Suntech R&D Australia, BT Imaging, BlueScope Steel, Trina Solar. U.S. involvement includes the National Science Foundation’s Department of Energy Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Molecular Foundry, Arizona State University, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California.

USAIAP is funded at a level of $33 million. ASU’s lead on the project is professor Christiana Honsberg.

• The Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative (ASTRI), an $87-million project geared towards transforming Australia into a global leader in concentrating solar power technologies. Australian partners in this project include CSIRO, the Australian National University, University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, University of South Australia, Queensland University of Technology and Flinders University. U.S. partners are the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State University. ASU’s lead on this project is professor Ellen Stechel.

• The Micro Urban Solar Integrated Concentrators (MUSIC) project, one of 11 collaborative projects recently announced by he United States Solar Energy Collaboration. This project is being led by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

The MUSIC project will develop thin, lightweight and self-contained solar concentrating modules that would deliver up to 400 degrees Celsius thermal energy and electricity from building roofs. When coupled with development of storage and energy/grid management techniques, the technology could potentially change the way solar energy is utilized in cities.

Partners collaborating on the MUSIC project along with ASU and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology are: the Australia National University, the University of New South Wales, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Rheem, Fielders, the University of California, Merced, and the University of Tulsa. ASU’s lead in this project is professor Liping Wang.

“In one of the sunniest places on the planet, we are excited about leveraging our location in Arizona and working with esteemed colleagues in Australia, to collaboratively further advance solar research and technologies,” said Ellen Stechel, deputy director of LightWorks and professor of practice in chemistry at ASU. The LightWorks initiative pulls light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework, in a transdisciplinary effort to leverage ASU's unique strengths, particularly in renewable energy fields including solar fuels, advanced biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics.

Teachers College receives $1M grant to help train state's K-8 math educators

February 21, 2013

Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has been awarded $948,440 in funding through the U.S. Department of Education to enlist the state’s three major universities in an effort to raise mathematics achievement among K-8 students.

The project joins ASU’s Teachers College with colleges of education at Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona to provide teacher training and resources aimed at boosting student achievement across Arizona to meet new state-mandated Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM).  Download Full Image

The grant, made available through the U.S. Department of Education's annual Improving Teacher Quality state grants program, is administered in Arizona by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).

Adopted by the ADE in 2010, the new common core standards outline what Arizona K-8 (kindergarten, elementary and middle school) and high school students are expected to learn to be ready for college and careers – and what teachers and parents need to do to help them. The timeline calls for the standards to be implemented in the 2013-2014 academic year, with assessment of student learning beginning in 2014-2015.

“This will be an extraordinary effort among our three public universities to help ensure Arizona’s students are competitive in the 21st century,” said Elizabeth Hinde of ASU’s Teachers College and project director. “By awarding this grant, ABOR and ADE are sending a strong signal that not only do they recognize challenges facing Arizona in math achievement, but they are committed to partnering with educators at all levels to overcome those obstacles.”

Arizona joined with 46 other states to create the next generation of K-12 standards in English language arts and mathematics upon which Arizona’s CCSSM is based. However, despite slight improvement in recent years, Arizona continues to lag significantly below the national average in mathematics achievement, according to a 2011 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“Because the CCSSM will directly impact Arizona’s teachers and students, reaching out to teachers in the classroom with professional development is vitally important,” said Stephanie Jacobson, ABOR associate vice president for academic and student affairs. “The country is still recovering from tough economic circumstances, so high-need school districts in particular are feeling overwhelmed trying to provide teacher training and resources to implement the new standards. We want this funding to be a boon to those districts, and many other schools throughout Arizona, in realizing that achievement.”

The funding allows Arizona’s three universities to collaborate with each other and other educational agencies to help train K-8 teachers as they implement the state-mandated CCSSM. The other educational partners include Prescott College, Southern Arizona Regional Education Center, Arizona Department of Education and several school districts across the state.

Specifically, the grant will fund math and education teams from all three universities to partner with educational agencies and school districts to create new or modify existing math materials, as well as conduct professional development activities with teachers. In addition, through this project, mathematics teacher preparation coursework and materials will be enhanced.

The goal is for current teachers and teacher educators preparing the next generations of teachers to be better equipped to teach the CCSSM. Additionally, teacher education coursework will be better positioned to support future teachers in their work.

At ASU, Teachers College math and education faculty will work with K-8 teachers from the Roosevelt Unified School District in Phoenix. Together, the educators will create and evaluate materials aligned to the CCSSM. Teachers College faculty also will provide training to K-8 teachers throughout the 2013-2014 school year.

UA faculty will collaborate with Southern Arizona Regional Education Center to provide training to teachers throughout the state’s southern region. In Arizona’s northern region, NAU faculty will team up with Prescott College and Flagstaff Unified School District to provide training to elementary school educators.

All materials, including lesson plans and professional development activity ideas, created under the grant eventually will be made available to anyone interested through ASU’s Teachers College Professional Learning Library website. Project director Hinde can be reached at