Nestled just inside the doors of the Applied Technology Building is a system of wires and hardware that may seem commonplace to some, but to one immersive learning class, this system signifies a greener future for Ball State.
Sherif Attallah, an assistant professor for construction management, taught his first immersive learning class last semester. The goal was to collect and install Ball State’s first solar panel system on campus.
The class of six students started with a $2,000 grant and turned it into three working solar panels that power a display case where students can charge their phones and learn more about solar energy via a television screen.
“Our system is currently off grid. It is not connected to the main panel system of the building,” Attallah said. “It’s done solely for educational purposes and showing students how it all works.”
One of the students in the class, construction management major Connor Vest, said because the grant was smaller, the students turned to industry leaders for help in the form of donations.
“The companies that donated to us helped us out a lot and we ended up getting most of the components of the actual system donated to us, leaving the grant money to make up the display portion of the project,” Vest said. “We wanted to make the display look really nice because the main goal of the project was to educate people on the benefits of renewable energy, especially solar energy.”
Attallah said he was proud of the work his students did, and said he hopes to expand upon this project so that Ball State will be powered by solar energy in addition to the geothermal system already in place.
“The students did a very good job in outreaching to the companies working in this industry,” Attallah said. “However, to do something that will be integrated into the electrical system of the building, making it on grid, we will need a bigger fund and some support from the facilities management team.”
In the future, Attallah said he would also be "more than willing" to work with anyone on campus to help create more sustainable energy across the university.
“Sustainability, for me, is caring about future generations as much as I care about myself. Geothermal energy is an excellent initiative, but now I think it is time for Ball State to consider solar panels as well,” Attallah said. " It’s one of the cleanest sources of electrical energy out there."
Renewable energy is becoming a necessity, and Attallah said there is a higher demand for electrical energy every year.
"We have to be vigilant about the energy left for future generations," he said.
For the time being, however, Attallah said he's happy with the product his students worked hard to see to fruition.
“It was a great feeling. I was worried that when we pieced all the parts from different suppliers together, it wouldn’t work," he said. "But, when we gained electrical power from the panels, it was an amazing feeling.”