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ASU receives NSF grant for Alternative Energy Technologies programs

April 03, 2007

MESA, Ariz. — Arizona State University’s Electronic Systems Department at the Polytechnic campus was awarded a $900,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant recently to develop alternative energy programs and courses in conjunction with community colleges in Arizona and Texas.

Known as the Arizona-Texas Consortium for Alternative and Renewable Energy Technologies Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Project, ASU’s Electronic Systems Department will partner with education, government and industry, including Austin Community College, Mesa Community College, Pima Community College, the state of Arizona, Austin Energy, Arizona Public Service, BP Solar, Georgetown Utility Systems, Global Solar Energy, Tucson Electric Power, Salt River Project, Southwest Gas, and Trico Electric Cooperative, Inc.

The ATE Project will help develop programs that better prepare and increase the number of students completing associate of applied science degrees, certificate programs and bachelor’s degrees to meet the workforce needs of the energy, transportation and electronic industries.

In addition, the ATE Project will create industry internships, provide training to improve the skills of existing workforce, offer professional development activities to teachers in grades 9-16, and serve as a nationwide and statewide public awareness vehicle.

ASU has started its efforts with the introduction of a new concentration in Alternative Energy Technologies at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Beginning in fall 2007, students will have the option of focusing on Alternative Energy Technologies in the undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered by ASU’s Electronic Systems Department.

“These programs, among a handful in the nation, are expected to attract large numbers of students and to graduate engineers and engineering technologists who will lead humanity into a new era of clean, renewable energy,” said Lakshmi Munukutla, chair of the Electronic Systems Department at the Polytechnic campus.

The new alternative energy program will educate students about alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, ocean, geothermal and biomass, promoting a dual energy crisis strategy of conservation or maximizing efficiency as well as vigorous development of alternative energy sources. The new courses that make up the program will prepare students in how to engineer concepts, components and materials. This unique program also compliments other activities at ASU that have similar goals, but different approaches.

For the state of Arizona, the ultimate alternative energy scenario and the only one that truly makes sense relies on the renewable, pollution-free system called the “solar-hydrogen” cycle, which is a concept comprising solar energy as the primary energy source and hydrogen as a new energy vector or carrier, according to Slobodan Petrovic, associate professor in the alternative energy program.

“All courses will have a practical component and will rely on project-based teaching methodology fostered at ASU’s Polytechnic campus,” said Petrovic. “In addition, students will have opportunities to conduct and participate in a wide spectrum of research projects.”

With access to the Photovoltaics Testing Laboratory, one of three in the world, and fuel cell research on the campus, students will gain first-hand knowledge about various systems and how they work.

Currently, faculty members at the Polytechnic campus are supervising 20 undergraduate and graduate students working on applied research projects and technology innovations related to alternative energy.

The program is expected to have a strong impact by galvanizing industry in Arizona with the common goal of providing a technical workforce prepared to lead the state into a future economy based on alternative energy sources, according to Munukutla.

“This ambitious, ground-breaking effort resonates favorably and powerfully with the rest of the technical community, demonstrates a commitment to make a true difference, and is consistent with the global vision of an alternative energy future and the role that ASU must play in this effort,” she said.

For information about the program or grant, contact Cheryl Roberts at (480) 727-1514 or visit