Engineering interns improve energy efficiency at Arkansas universities

justinvanhoose_sauengineeringenergyintern15-1-sizedRather than worrying about burning up on the beach, nine Arkansas engineering students are spending their summers concerned with helping state agencies burn less energy.

This summer marks the first year of the energy engineering summer internship program, which is sponsored by the Arkansas Industrial Energy Clearinghouse.

After only a couple of weeks recovering from the spring semester, the emerging engineers convened in Fayetteville for a three-day energy efficiency workshop. Dr. Darin Nutter, P.E., director of the Clearinghouse and professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Arkansas, tailored the lessons for each student to prepare them for their summer experience.

Among the selected interns for this program is Justin Vanhoose, a third-year engineering student at Southern Arkansas University. His mission is to survey all of SAU’s facilities, going into each room of each building to add up the amount and type of lighting being used.

“This experience has been a really good affirmation that this is the career path I want to be on,” said Vanhoose. “My supervisors are always there to direct me when I need it, but I’ve been allowed to solve problems and think on my own.”

In extrapolating the cost of the second and third floors of SAU’s Magale Library alone, Vanhoose discovered the cost savings if the more than 1,100 fluorescent bulbs were changed to LED.

SAU’s Vice President for Facilities Jasper Lewis sees this energy internship program as a “win-win” for all involved, with students being trained on equipment and techniques while promoting energy awareness and good stewardship of public funding. He sees Vanhoose’s work contributing to the continuation of SAU’s long and proud tradition of being among the most energy efficient organizations at the national level.

“Justin is an outstanding student whose talents are demonstrated on a daily basis. He has already made significant progress towards identifying ways to save energy and reduce cost through advanced equipment and management techniques,” said Lewis.

He and the other interns work approximately 35 hours a week and submit a weekly journal to Nutter. At the completion of the 10- week internship, each will complete a final report about what was learned and the energy efficiency measures that were recommended or implemented.

According to Nutter, the objectives are the same for each intern. The student benefits from hands-on energy efficiency related experience while they provide much needed help to state agencies in their energy efficiency improvement efforts, including Act 1494 that passed in 2009.

Looking further ahead, Nutter hopes this internship program will help infuse Arkansas with engineering graduates that are equipped to improve the state’s economy and sustainability through energy efficiency.

“Jasper Lewis and everyone at SAU have been very cooperative, supportive, and wonderful to work with this summer,” said Nutter. “I am privileged to support the state of Arkansas, support the growth of our engineering workforce, and establish relationships between Arkansas universities.”

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