Founding of Innovative Institute in Clean-Energy Technology
September 12, 2008
Professors Constantin Chassapis and Hamid Hadim were recently awarded a grant from the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology (NJCST) to establish the NJ Innovation Partnership Institute in Clean-Energy Technology (IPI-CET) at Stevens.
The main goal of the IPI-CET is to develop educational and training programs and curricula at various levels that are needed in response to rapidly increasing workforce challenges within the energy industry, providing expertise to Mechanical Engineering students specifically in the Nuclear Engineering field.
“To address these challenges, creative solutions and effective strategies will be developed within the IPI-CET at Stevens as they relate to pipeline development, career awareness and outreach, development of effective educational programs, and entry-level skill development,” said Hadim.
As part of its main strategy for workforce education in support of talent development and economic growth, the New Jersey Governor's Office of Economic Growth has identified clean energy technology as one of four targeted industry sectors that are key to the state’s future economic development. With the demand for electric power in New Jersey expected to increase by up to 40 percent by 2019, nuclear power is considered as the most viable large scale, clean energy source needed to meet future electric power needs and ensure meeting the state’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as recognized in the new state’s energy master plan.
“A large number of highly trained nuclear power engineering and technology graduates will be needed to replace close to 50 percent of nuclear professionals who are to retire within the next five years, as well as for expansion of nuclear power capacity projected within the near future,” said Chassapis. “In addition, there is a significant demand from the nuclear power industry for entry-level engineers and technicians who have acquired significant practical training and skills through exposure to real world nuclear power engineering and technology thus minimizing their need for further training as they enter the workforce.”
In response, Stevens will establish an Innovation Partnership Institute in Clean Energy Technology, with its main focus on nuclear power education and training in this initial phase. As a critical component of the Institute, a strategic partnership has been forged, which includes Stevens, Bergen Community College, Public Service Electric & Gas Co., Erin Engineering Co., and PJM Interconnection.
The program is designed to respond to the educational and workforce challenges mentioned above through four main components:
- A program at the high school level that will provide a (2+2+2) high school-community college-university pathway leading to a certificate or undergraduate degree with concentration in nuclear power engineering.
- A “Technician’s Certificate” program to be offered at Bergen Community College,
- A “Nuclear Power Engineering Concentration” for students pursuing the Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) degree in mechanical engineering at Stevens,
- A continuing education program for working professionals interested in a career in nuclear power, combined with a licensure preparation program for working nuclear professionals interested in a “Nuclear Plant Operator” license.
The program will be designed to have a substantial practice-oriented component using Stevens’ cooperative education (Co-op) program that is supported by a large industrial partnership. Stevens’ award-winning WebCampus program will be used to offer appropriate online courses to students during their co-op assignments as well as to working professionals that are interested in career change or advancement. The proposed program components will include competency-based course modules designed to provide participating students with the necessary fundamental knowledge, design experience, and “hands-on” practical skills needed to meet next generation nuclear power workforce education and training needs.
The program will leverage from several educational initiatives that are ongoing at Stevens. Among them, the New Jersey Alliance for Engineering Education (NJAEE) is an NSF-funded partnership that promotes the integration of problem solving, innovation and inventiveness within main stream high school STEM curricula, while fostering the cross-fertilization of innovative teaching methods across K-12, college and university level education. This program is developing a model to increase the percentage of students pursuing STEM careers and training via stimulating integrative curricular approach that combines traditional science and mathematics teaching with engineering and technology education, innovation and problem solving, as well as critical workforce skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, analysis, and information synthesis.
Deliverables for the program will include curricula and related educational and training material that will lead to an industry-recognized certificate or degree, and will be shared with the Institute partners, other companies in the energy industry as well as appropriate high schools, community colleges and universities statewide and nationwide.
The expected outcomes from the proposed program will benefit Stevens’ industrial partners by providing them the opportunity to recruit co-op students within the program who can be trained and observed, and also to access to highly trained entry-level graduates and working professionals who will have acquired the skills needed to have a successful career in nuclear power technology.
Expected broader impacts include an increase in the pool of students and working professionals interested in pursuing a career related to nuclear power technology; preparation of students and working professionals for a successful career in nuclear power technology, and the demonstration of the program as a model for adoption at other institutions statewide and nationwide.