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Learn by Doing: Michigan Tech's Alternative Energy Enterprise forms a Pumped Hydro Team

The PUSH team sponsored an undergraduate research group during 2020-2021, the Pumped Hydro AEE Team. Team members Noah Baliat, Shaelyn Koleber, Alex Wilt, Emilia Fanelli, Steven Sweet, Hayden Augustyniak, and Trevor VanDyke set out to develop a GIS tool to map the areas of highest electrical loads in the United States in comparison with overlays of potential mine sites appropriate for PUSH redevelopment. They also conducted research on similar engineering projects to help in the estimate of CAPEX costs for PUSH construction. The Pumped Hydro team's report became a major part of our report on the Mather Mine. Many of the students continue to make contributions to KETL and PUSH, and you'll see their profiles listed in our People page.

Discovery- and project-based learning are central to Michigan Tech's campus culture. Students love working on real problems, for real clients, in real communities--making a difference today to help shape tomorrow. Pump Underground Storage Hydropower is an ideal example project. Figuring out how to adaptively reuse brownfields in order to fix one of the most pressing needs of the modern world? Solving an economic, environmental, and cultural problem by solving another economic, environmental, and cultural problem? Let's get started!

The Alternative Energy Enterprise (AEE) is a student-run company at Michigan Technological University. The AEE operates several multidisciplinary teams seeking to improve technologies for a sustainable world. Teams work to reduce carbon footprints, develop carbon neutral energies (geothermal, solar, biofuels), and facilitate energy independence in local communities.

AEE members founded Michigan Tech’s Sustainability House, a educational demonstration project and experimental laboratory in the form of a retrofitted 1950s modernist home. The house is currently equipped with a 8.6kWh solar array, dual compost systems, aqua- and hydroponics, and energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, all on the road to a net-zero energy and zero-waste residence.

For more than 20 years, Michigan Technological University's Enterprise Program has been on the forefront of pedagogy, putting real-life experiences at the center of engineering education. Despite the disruptions of COVID19, more that 900 students from 31 different majors worked among 25 different enterprise teams, forming companies sponsored by private donors, grants, and corporate sponsors. These multidisciplinary teams play a significant role at Michigan Tech, since nearly 15% of all campus undergraduates work with a team during their studies.

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