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March 22, 2017

UMass, HCC to develop new renewable energy lab courses with 250,000 NSF grant

Masha Babyonyshev/Collegian Staff

The University of Massachusetts and Holyoke Community College are collaborating to give students at both schools the opportunity to tackle clean energy problems after receiving a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

These new renewable energy lab courses will integrate existing programs at both schools, including the Sustainability Studies program at HCC and the Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons), an 18-credit program at UMass that offers concentration areas in Renewable Energy and Biomedicine.

“In a standard lab course, the students follow ‘recipes’ that have one right answer.  But that’s not how real-world problems work,” said Scott Auerbach, director of iCons and a professor of chemistry, in a University press release.

The new courses will allow students to pursue their own interests in renewable energy by designing and implementing experiments.

The program will build upon HCC’s Learning Communities, directed by psychology professor Jack Mino, which are “team-taught interdisciplinary courses that take a common theme and view it through the lens of multiple disciplines,” according to HCC’s website.

Kate Malolatesi, a biology professor at HCC, will be joining Auerbach and Mino in developing the new lab courses.  In an interview, she said that any field that is not strictly academic is interdisciplinary to some extent, and clean energy is no exception.  Malolatesi teaches Introduction to Clean Energy in conjunction with Language and Literature II at HCC.

The new partnership will hopefully make transferring from HCC to UMass easier, according to Malolatesi.For those that transfer from HCC to UMass, “what’s better then showing them what it’s like,” Malolatesi added.

Renewable energy lab courses will be available to first-year and second-year students in sustainability studies at HCC and third-year iCons students at UMass.

David Barnstone can be contacted at dbarnsto@student.umass.edu.

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