Hazleton offers an engineering degree program with a sustainability emphasis

Penn State Hazleton’s new engineering program is leading the way in sustainable energy education.

“We wanted to develop an engineering program that would focus on sustainable energy and sustainability,” said Wes Grebski, associate professor of engineering at Penn State Hazleton. “But at the same time, we wanted to give the students a very strong foundation in engineering.”

This idea led to the bachelor’s degree program in general engineering with an alternative energy and power generation track, which prepares students to enter into sustainable energy positions with careers in design, research and development, experimentation and testing, manufacturing or technical sales.

The program, which was first conceptualized by Grebski over 10 years ago, officially began at the Hazleton campus three years ago. It is the only engineering degree that can be completed at the Hazleton campus and is not offered at any of Penn State’s other campuses.

Students who choose the major focus on a variety of engineering courses including mechanical, electrical, civil and nuclear to give them a diverse engineering background in order to deal with energy sustainability at all levels.

“The program has a strong design component, as well,” Grebski said. “We are trying to prepare graduates to enter the power generation industry the way the industry is, but we also want the graduates to have the background they need to lead the industry toward more sustainable forms of energy.”

Grebski said it is only a matter of time before sustainable energy issues become much more significant.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that sooner or later, energy sustainability is going to become a big issue,” Grebski said. “Right now we are relying on fossil fuels. We are relying on oil and coal … but fossil fuels are in limited supply.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that sooner or later, energy sustainability is going to become a big issue,” Grebski said. “Right now we are relying on fossil fuels. We are relying on oil and coal … but fossil fuels are in limited supply.”

He said that even though these energy sources may last another 50 to 100 years, the prices are going to continue to rise until eventually they either become too expensive or too depleted.

“Now is the time to make the switch towards energy sustainability,” Grebski said.

That forward thinking philosophy has led the program’s students to create some really exciting sustainability-focused projects. A solar powered car, 3.2 kW photovoltaic (solar panel) power station and small wind turbine were all built by students.

At the same time, a number of large scale sustainable energy projects came to the area. Within a short proximity from the Penn State Hazleton campus, there is one of the biggest rooftop photovoltaic installations in the country and three wind farms with 10-12 turbines each.

Next year, senior level students will begin their capstone projects and many of those projects will focus on solar thermal, which extracts heat from the sun for applications such as heating water.

Perhaps just as exciting is the potential student initiative led by the engineering and science club. They are hoping to receive grant money in order to build a small dorm that would be entirely powered by sustainable energy. This dorm would act as a living laboratory for students in the program, who will be able to live and learn within a fully sustainable environment.

Grebski is so passionate and hopeful about this new engineering program that he is actually putting off retirement so that he can watch it grow and mature.

“It might be time for me to retire,” said Grebski, who has worked as a professor at Penn State Hazleton for nearly 30 years, “But I’m excited about the program. I’m excited about the different projects that we do, so I’m not quite ready yet.”

He also will incorporate sustainability into EDSGN 100, an introductory engineering and design course, which he will teach this fall at a local high school in the hopes of getting teens fired up about sustainability even before they choose their college path.

“We want to get young people excited,” he said. “We want to get young people informed because basically those people are going to make a difference in the future.”

“We want to get young people excited,” he said. “We want to get young people informed because basically those people are going to make a difference in the future.”

For more information about the general engineering program with an alternative energy and power generation track, contact Wes Grebski at 570-450-3087 or wxg3@psu.edu.

Visit sustainability.psu.edu for more information about sustainability at Penn State.

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Last Updated July 16, 2013