VANCOUVER, Wash. – A $250,500 grant to Washington State University Vancouver will address the regional need for graduates in fields supporting renewable and clean energy enterprises.
 
Awarded to Hakan Gurocak, director of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, and to assistant professors David Chiu, Stephen Solovitz and Wei Xue, the grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust will develop a renewable energy option track.
 
The track will combine courses from mechanical engineering, computer science and electrical engineering, allowing students with a major in one of these programs to complete the renewable energy option.
 
Many sectors, much opportunity
 
The transition from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable systems focusing on solar and wind power spans the electric utility market, the transportation sector and the construction industry. Gurocak said in a time of national economic uncertainty, this multi-sector shift offers immense opportunities for building wealth and creating jobs.
 
Studies estimate that the renewable energy sector is expected to grow quickly and enable more than 63,000 skilled, high-paying careers in Washington and Oregon by 2025.
 
“Meeting this need depends on our region’s ability to supply a well-qualified workforce to design, build, operate and maintain renewable energy systems,” said Gurocak. “Building a wider interest among young people in energy-focused careers is critical.”
 
Courses to begin in spring 2012
 
Renewable energy option track courses will begin in spring 2012. An estimated 100 undergraduate students, five full-time faculty and 10 graduate student teaching assistants will be impacted by the new program each year.
 
In addition, 150 youth will have an opportunity to learn about renewable energy, WSU Vancouver and emerging career opportunities available to them through annual outreach programs planned with local schools.
 
To be housed in new building
 
The award will enable the development of eight courses and equip an energy systems laboratory, radio frequency communications laboratory and clean room in the Engineering and Computer Science building, which is under construction and slated to open for classes in January 2012. The award also will strengthen the robotics, microelectronics and thermo/fluids laboratories to give students access to the latest technologies.
 
Jennifer Crooks, director of development and alumni relations at WSU Vancouver, believes the grant will help distinguish WSU Vancouver graduates in the renewable energy industry.
“The generous grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust will allow WSU Vancouver to outfit the new engineering and computer science labs with equipment our state budget cannot afford us. This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to learn on cutting-edge, industry-standard equipment,” she said.