Campus as a Living Laboratory

Date posted: November 12, 2013

On October 4th, 2013 Bellevue College Student Programs Financial Adviser Hristo Stoynov (pronounced Chris) flew to St. Port Huron, Michigan to attend “The Campus as Living Laboratory Event” at St. Clair Country Community College.

The event was sponsored by Siemens, an electronics and engineering company based in Germany, and funded by a grant from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).  During the trip, Chris gained valuable insight on how sustainability could be achieved and integrated into the Bellevue College curriculum.

Held at St. Clair County Community College, in the town of Port Huron where the famous inventor Thomas Edison grew up, the one day event allowed attendees to glimpse into the living laboratory of St. Clair County Community.  The college acts as a living laboratory for students to merge their academic interest in sustainability by offering two degrees, one in Alternative Energy in Facility Management and one in Renewable and Alternative Energy Technology.  Students who graduate from the programs gain hands-on experience by learning how to install and wire solar panels and wind turbines right on campus.

To reduce energy consumption and invest in renewable energy resources, St. Clair Country Community College uses hydro-heaters that are heated by the sun to warm up the college.  Solar, wind, and geothermic powers the college buildings and the green roofs reduce water runoff simultaneously taking in moisture.  The natural vegetation around the campus saturates carbon dioxide and the sustainable parking lot, soaks up and cleans 300,000 gallons of rainwater annually.  While these are just a few things that the college is doing to reduce their environmental impact what is most impressive of all is the college’s ability to make aspects of the surrounding environment a learning tool for students and the community.

Returning to BC, Chris imagined ways to integrate sustainability into Bellevue College through the accounting, engineering and science students. While accounting students could analyze if  retrofitting of alternative energies was more cost efficient, and do a cost analysis of the solar panels students planning to enter an engineering degree could help implement and wire in the solar panels and wind turbines.  Risk always needs to be taken into account and St. Clair Country Community College mitigates student risk working on alternative energy sources or being on the green roofs is similar to the biology and chemistry courses.  In order to reduce risk and injuries, all students learning how to construct, wire and implement solar panels, and wind turbines will have to take a crash course on safety rules similar to the scientist course using harsh chemicals.

As Bellevue College restructures and implements new degrees, Chris hopes that degrees focusing on alternative energy and the environment will be in the new plans.  His idea is to make Bellevue College a living laboratory utilizing the student garden, solar panels, and buildings as models for education and in the meantime hopes to find ways to integrate a 2 credit class similar to that of the First Year Experience that teaches incoming students about sustainable systems and projects.

The college movable wind turbines, solar panels and accessible green roofs are used as educational models that the students wired and constructed themselves.

For “ The Campus as a Living Laboratory: Guide for Community Colleges” clink: Campus-as-a-Living-Lab