Crowder College Dreaming

This past month has been a whirlwind of activity. Whirlwind is a great metaphor for that exhilarating feeling of being pushed and pulled along by forces of nature.  I am inspired.  I learned about Crowder College efforts from my supervisor, Carla Chance, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Business.  She told me they had a fantastic reputation for alternative/ renewable energy programs.  I wanted to learn more about solar energy to lead our college in this direction, so I asked my electrical engineering co-workers, Mark Dowdy and Jessica du Maine, if they wanted to travel to Crowder to see what we could learn.  My hope was to see how they got started.  My hunch was “build the curriculum and they will
come.”  My excitement about this exchange was contagious.  Soon we had the Vice Chancellor of Workforce and Community Development, Rod Nunn, asking to join us.  As we got closer to the event on Oct 16th, 2009, Lori Thompson, Director of Facilities, wanted to come too.  We added three more to the list, a student, Damian Owens, Lori’s husband, and friend Robert. This growing enthusiasm was a sign to me that the time was ripe to move boldly in this renewable energy direction.  To add to my amazement, Mark,
Jessica, Lori and husband, Damian and Robert all wanted to come see my off-the-grid building project in NW Arkansas.  This was more than time off from work–it was transforming for all.

Crowder folks were bubbling with enthusiasm!  They treated us to lunch and a quick tour of their historical refurbished military base–referenced by the comic strip Beetle Bailey.  The older buildings were barracks and built with narrow brick construction and not well insulated.  All new buildings were being built with green building principles and fueled by renewable energies harvested from the sun, wind, biofuels, and underground steady  temperatures.

Before we even saw their windmill and decathlon competition homes  using solarthermal energy and design, Monty Pugh-Towe, Solar Faculty, presented the story of Crowder’s Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy and Technology [MARET] program.  In 1992, the Missouri Legislature recognized Crowder’s years of accomplish-ments in renewable energy, dating back into the late 70s, and designated them the state center of renewable energy education.  The MARET center is internationally recognized due to the many competitions their faculty and students have entered and won.  In 1987, they finished second of U.S. teams behind General Motors in the World Solar Challenge in Australia.  Even more impressive, in 1984, they built and drove the first solar-powered vehicle ACROSS the continental U.S.  This car is now displayed in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.  They continue to annually sponsor and organize international vehicle solar competitions. They challenged us to assemble a high school team from our area to join their annual solar bicycle race.

Next, they covered green building  competitions.  In 2002 and 2005, they competed in the Solar Decathlon Competition, at the National Mall, Washington, DC.  In 2002, they won the “People’s Choice Award,” won first place in Energy Balance; and 6th place overall.  In that event, they competed with 13 universities. Pretty impressive for a small (4000 students) community college in SW Missouri, or anywhere, for that matter!  And Crowder faculty and director, Dan Eberle, do not rest on their laurels.  They presented their plans for the Solar Village to be completed in 2010.  Their MARET Center will be built to LEED Platinum and will be a certified Positive Net Energy Structure. This means it will generate MORE than the center or village will use.   After all this impressive information, we took the tour of their 2002 Solar Decathlon home.  Joel Lamson, Solar faculty, reviewed all the green features of this competition home including solarthermal design to heat and cool the home with water running under the floors for radiant  comfort.  To fully appreciate Crowder’s program, please go see their website at http://www.crowder.edu/MARET/

In just over 3 hours, I learned more about this sister school than I thought was possible.  Not only do these faculty have the expertise to share with our future generations of green-employed citizens, but their hospitality was from their hearts. Their Associate Dean of Instruction, Amy Rand, and their President, Alan Marble, both took time out of their busy schedules to welcome us. They embodied their mission of having strong ties with other educational institutions.

I am deeply touched by this visit and feel I have made new friends.  We discussed joint collaboration between our schools and hope to enter into joint articulation to share students in the near future. Warm thanks to all our Crowder colleagues for this enlightening encounter! Special thanks to those not already mentioned: Dan Boyt (Wind) and Rebekah Starkweather (Biofuels).  In a small postscript, Dan Boyt and Jessica du Maine are collaborating to get a STL high school near Wildwood campus interested in competing in the solar bike competition!

And then we went to Arkansas.  Next blog entry!

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