Solar Structure at Home in Quad
Solar Structure at Home in Quad

Andrew Baruth, PhD, assistant professor of physics, and his Energy Tech Program team composed mostly of freshmen, assembled the installation nearly from scratch. Working as a team, students were given little instruction, only a parts lists and some design plans at various stages of construction. Instead, they relied on their problem-solving abilities to successfully construct the EnergiPlant. The parts were purchased thanks to a partnership with the Omaha Public Power District.

“In working with PrimoWind, a California-based wind turbine company, and their engineers, we calculated the minimum amount of preconstruction and guidance necessary for successful completion with only minor hiccups and challenges. For the most part, I think we hit the nail on the head,” said Baruth. “The students had just finished learning about solar energy production, distribution and storage, as well as how it should be wired. This was a good test to see if they could make it a reality.”

“The parts themselves presented their own challenges, so we had to be innovative and look at the product as a whole and figure out how it works,” said freshman Hannah Okelberry. “None of us knew how to make it work, so we broke up into teams and problem-solved together.  At first it seemed daunting, but after we figured it out in our groups, it only took eight hours over two days to complete it.”

The fixture will remain housed in the quad, available for students to charge their electronics, relax on the attached bench and experience the effects of solar panels, wind turbines and sustainable energy production.  

“This has been rewarding to have helped build the EnergiPlant, as it is here to stay throughout my entire academic career,” said Okelberry. “I have taken pride in this installation, built with my fellow classmates. This is something I would have never been able to do months ago, and it is so cool that I could do it now.” 

About the Energy Technology Program

The Energy Technology Program includes the major and minor in sustainable energy science. Students interested in sustainability and energy may also like the major in sustainability, major in environmental science, or major in applied physical analysis.