Project Based Learning for Sustainability

Project-based learning is a cornerstone of our Alfred State culture. We believe students learn best when they are engaged in solving problems in the real world. Given the college’s emphasis on sustainability, it’s no surprise that many of our projects address sustainability challenges. This page highlights just a few of the exciting sustainability-related project-based learning opportunities at Alfred State.

Installing solar power at the US National Arboretum
Alfred State students have installed 3 solar photovoltaic systems at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. In 2009, five students enrolled in the electrical construction and maintenance electrician program, accompanied by Associate Professor Jeffrey Stevens, spent their spring break at the Arboretum, conducting a four-day workshop that resulted in the installation of a 1 kW solar array that powers a drip-irrigation system. Alfred State students and faculty returned again in 2011 and 2013, each time leading workshops on renewable energy and installing progressively larger solar arrays. In 2011, they installed a 5kW system and in 2013 they completed a 15 kW photovoltaic system. Learn more on the group’s Facebook page.

Installing renewable energy on campus
Students enrolled in the electrical construction and maintenance electrician program have installed renewable energy devices on the Alfred State campus. In 2008, students installed a 5.1 kW photovoltaic grid intertie system to power the library and administration building of the School of Applied Technology on our Wellsville campus. The students gained experience by personally evaluating the site and the layout for the PV array and electrical components. They also installed all of the conduit systems exactly as they would on a real world job site. Students in the program also installed a 10 kW wind turbine near the baseball field on the Alfred campus.

Participating in the China Solar Decathlon
In collaboration with students from Alfred University, and Guilin University of Technology in China, Alfred State students constructed a solar-powered home for the 2013 Solar Decathlon China. The competition, co-hosted by the China National Energy Administration and the U.S. Department of Energy, challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate fully functioning demonstration homes powered entirely with solar energy. Learn more on the group’s Facebook page.

Restoring electric vehicles
Students in Alfred State’s Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology Department restored and enhanced two previously non-functioning electric vehicles with sophisticated performance monitoring features. These zero emission vehicles are now used on campus by facilities employees.

Creating a Zero Energy Home
Alfred State students in a variety of construction-related programs constructed our Net-Zero Energy Demonstration Home as part of their coursework. The 2200 square foot home, which is located on Alfred State's Wellsville campus, was designed to be highly energy efficient and incorporates a variety of renewable energy technologies - including solar photovoltaic, small wind, solar thermal, and geothermal energy - as well as a high-end monitoring and control system used for teaching purposes. It serves as a living laboratory for educating the future construction workforce as well as the general public in green building techniques.

Modifying vehicles to improve fuel economy at the Green Grand Prix
Students and faculty in Alfred State’s Automotive Trades Department regularly enter vehicles that they have modified in the Green Grand Prix, held annually at the Watkins Glen International Raceway. For several years in a row, Alfred State teams have won fuel economy challenges here. In 2012, for example, our modified Honda Insight achieved 95.1 mpg making it the winner in the 51-65 mpg vehicle class.

Installing a solar-powered telemetry system
Students and faculty worked partnered with BP to design and install a solar-powered telemetry system to monitor water levels at a wetland treatment system created at a former Sinclair Refinery in Wellsville. The treatment system uses plants to clean residual contamination left from the long-closed refinery.

Attempting to break the land speed record with a hybrid vehicle
In 2012, thirteen students and four faculty members from the Automotive Trades Department visited Bonneville Salt Flats in an attempt to break the land speed record for 1 liter automobiles with a modified Honda Insight. Students worked before and after classes to complete the car, which ultimately was able to achieve a peak speed of just over 110 mph. Visit the Automotive Department page on Facebook to view photos of this event.