Second Sustainability Symposium discusses green engineering

Paige Neidig May 1, 2013 0

n Tuesday, April 23, as part of Scholarship and Creative Arts Day, the departments of engineering and physics held their second annual Sustainability Symposium in Gibble Auditorium. The symposium centered on spreading awareness about keeping the environment safe on Elizabethtown College’s campus and around the world through green engineering. There were 11 talks with a total of 24 presenters. All of the talks were student-researched. Around 200 people from the community and the College’s own students, faculty and staff attended the symposium.

The event coordinators were Dr. Joseph Wunderlich, associate professor of engineering, and Dr. Tomas Estrada, assistant professor of engineering and physics. “It’s in the College’s and president’s strategic plans to do more things sustainable,” Wunderlich said.

Emily Vogel, senior mechanical and sustainable design engineering major, gave three presentations at the symposium. Vogel worked with seniors Jillian Casey, Jennifer Hughes, Eleanor McCarthy, Joshua Rowlands, Julia Ward and Nicholas Young on her first presentation. “We had a panel discussion about developing technology and a sustainable business model for solar powered cell phone chargers for people in the small West African country Republic of the Gambia,” Vogel said.

Her second project was her property design to replace her family’s vacation home on Long Beach Island, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. She designed the home to be green and sustainable while meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

“Buildings are the biggest consumers of energy both in construction and operation, making it important to design buildings to be constructed with little waste and to operate on minimal energy,” Vogel said.

She hopes that people left this presentation with an understanding of “how simple it is to design a green residence by using energy efficient products, building with local resources and optimizing natural light.”

Vogel and fellow seniors Deborah Bartyczak, Josh Rowlands and Nick Young talked about how a new field house on campus would affect water runoff into Lake Placida.

“Lake Placida is where all the water drainage on campus collects, and since being renovated last year, it can now hold an additional 500,000 cubic feet of extra storm water,” Vogel said. “We also researched ways to mitigate the runoff by using methods such as green roofs and permeable pavement for the parking lot.”

Vogel’s presentations only covered a few of the topics discussed at the symposium.  Other presenters included the concept of sustainable urban housing, an analysis of sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems in Costa Rica and computer controlled hydroponic gardens.

Students have been working with Wunderlich to create hydroponic gardens, which are gardens without soil. Plants absorb nutrients faster with hydroponic gardening because there is more oxygen and they don’t need to search for nutrients in the soil, as there is no soil. The plants are able to save energy in this way, and they put that extra energy into growing faster and producing a greater yield. Hydroponic gardening is also known to have fewer issues in regards to bug infestations, funguses and diseases. Fewer pesticides and less water are needed to maintain hydroponic gardens, which also helps the environment.

“We hope that our sustainability symposiums will help unify the many initiatives of our students, faculty and staff,” Wunderlich said. “Our institution can sometimes become fragmented.  However, I’m convinced that collectively we can match most any other institution when it comes to sustainability, service and related real-world learning. An event like this can only make us better.”

Sustainability is especially important in the United States because our industry is based on fuel, metal and other limited resources. Not only is there a limited supply of them, they also pollute the planet. Technology has been developed that uses unlimited resources such as the sun, water and wind to fuel the planet.  However, not everyone has embraced these methods. “As you look back on the United States and Pennsylvania from far away, you see that we need to do more.  The global world is in on this and we need to do more.  Everybody needs to do more,” Wunderlich said.

“If buildings were designed to optimize nature, such as minimizing heat islands and orienting them towards the sun, much energy could be saved,” said Vogel. “I believe that sustainability in engineering is very important because engineers have the resources and skills to design systems to be more efficient and produce less waste.”

Next year, Wunderlich hopes to hold the symposium with GreenCon 2014.  GreenCon is an all-day green conference with speakers from around the world. “If we could do this concurrently with the symposium, I think there would be a good benefit to that,” said Wunderlich.

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