From the Spring 2007 issue of Energy Matters

Photo of three students on the roof of a foods plant in Indiana who are holding measurement instruments to conduct a flue gas measurement on a tall oven stack that has penetrated the roof; one student holds a flue gas analyzer.

University of Illinois-Chicago IAC engineering students Aaron Hart, Arturo Hernandez and David Kulikowski prepare to conduct a flue gas measurement on an oven stack reaching up through the roof at a food plant in northwestern Indiana, as part of an assessment of the plant's boilers and ovens in 2006. (Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Along with transferring energy-efficient, environmentally sound practices and technologies to U.S. industries, the U.S. Department of Energy Industrial Technologies Program's 26 university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) are preparing world-class engineers for the U.S. workforce. It's a win-win situation: IAC alumni obtain good jobs while employers gain experienced, highly competent employees.

A recent survey of former IAC students included these findings:

  • More than 78 percent reported that IAC participation improved their ability to communicate in writing and work in teams.
  • More than 70 percent increased their ability to solve problems within time, money, and human resources constraints.
  • At least 50 percent are registered Professional Engineers (PE) or Engineers-in-Training (EIT).

Since its inception in 1976, more than 2,500 students have participated in the Industrial Assessment Center program, providing hundreds of eligible small- and medium-sized manufacturers with no-cost energy assessments each year. Currently, about 250 students are trained per year, and 120 to 180 of them will graduate from the program in a given year. This training augments a traditional education in electrical, industrial, or mechanical engineering. Forty percent to 50 percent of graduates move on to careers in energy-related fields.

Before they tackle their first energy assessment, Industrial Assessment Center students learn more about energy-consuming industrial equipment and systems such as air compressors, motors, boilers, pumps and lighting, as well as how to estimate potential energy and cost savings for those systems. They also receive training in assessment methods, the use of instruments, and safety measures. After energy assessments are completed and analyzed, IAC teams send detailed reports to the plants and follow up later to find out what measures the plants have actually implemented.

In 2005, the plants assessed by IACs implemented measures that are saving an average of $32,000 in annual energy costs; overall, IACs have saved plants an average of $55,000 per year. Since 1976, thousands of engineering students have applied the fundamentals of industrial energy and resource efficiency at more than 10,000 small- and mid-sized U.S. manufacturing plants.

Two IAC success stories
One IAC alumnus, Marcus Wilcox, was the first student to join Oregon State University's (OSU) Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) in 1986; he went on to receive a master's degree in mechanical engineering from OSU in 1989. Today, he is one of three partners in Cascade Energy Engineering of Portland, Ore., and Walla Walla, Wash.

Wilcox credits much of his current success to being involved with the IAC at OSU, where he gained valuable experience in "learning by doing." Wilcox still makes use of IAC resources in hiring new engineers for Cascade.

Another alumnus, Nasr Alkadi, was advised by a leading energy engineer to work on his Ph.D. at West Virginia University's IAC after he had earned two degrees in mechanical engineering. After graduating as an IAC Lead Student, Alkadi joined Detroit Edison to support energy efficiency and conservation activities in a team at General Motors, one of the utility's largest customers.

That team achieved energy savings of more than $344,000 at one GM facility in fiscal year 2004 alone. Blake Licht, manager of Energy Conservation Programs and Initiatives for GM, says that Alkadi's IAC field experience was a determining factor in his selection as an energy conservation engineer for GM.

"He has easily integrated into his new position and has become a critical part of the energy team at his facility," Licht says. GM and Detroit Edison are so impressed with the IAC alumni recruited by Alkadi that they have asked him to bring more graduates on board.

The Industrial Assessment Center program has several mechanisms for bringing prospective employers and graduating IAC students together. If your company is searching for an experienced, energy-savvy professional, please visit the Job Opportunities page in the online IAC Forum for Students and Alumni and consider posting your position description there. Or visit the Forum's current postings of résumés of qualified students and alums seeking professional positions.

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