Oregon Tech’s Student Led Clean Energy Forum

March 5, 2013

By Greg Stephens, Vice President of Marketing, Tech-Owls in Action (This article appears in the March, 2013 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

Tech-Owls in Action (TOA) is Oregon Tech’s Renewable Energy Leadership Club, focused on furthering the ‘green energy’ movement through the engineering of clean energy solutions. TOA launched in fall 2012 during the first term at Oregon Tech’s new, consolidated Wilsonville campus. After we delegated member roles we set out to coordinate a Forum-to-Action. Forums-to-Action (F2A)is a program developed by Focus the Nationto guide students, through open dialogue, toward effective energy-based projects best-suited for their talents and communities. TOA extended the F2A opportunity to the Wilsonville community in order to have a more inclusive public forum. This not only allowed us to engage with the local community, but the Tech-Owls would also get to work toward projects that the people of Wilsonville could feel connected to. We named our forum “Clean Energy: Connecting our Community.”

The event was held on February 21st, and began with a powerhouse lineup of keynote speakers that included Oregon Tech’s President, Chris Maples, Focus the Nation Leadership Coordinator Sasha Tenzin, Wilsonville’s transit director Stephen Lashbrook, and Vice President, Renewable Energy Group, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Dick Wanderscheid. The speakers provided examples of how their respective organizations were addressing the issue of energy and prepared the participants to engagein a public discussion about the role of renewable energy technology within Wilsonville community. The group discussion was the heart of the event.  In order to maximize results, we organized the crowd into multiple small, diverse, discussion groups that included students, community members, and industry professionals. No more than two of each category of attendee was allowed to participate in the same group.  Great ideas manifested from the discussions. Some common themes included developing smart meters and phone apps to help consumers make informed decisions about their everyday energy consumption to lobbying and training the city’s youth in order to spread energy literacy.  The following video captures all the ideas generated during the discussion and shows the participants ranking them by impact and importance.  

The forum concluded with an expert panel that included Nancy Kraushaar, Wilsonville Community Development Director, Joan Grimm from the Energy Stewardship Program, and Dick Wanderscheid from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The panel provided advice on how to become active within the community, where to find information, and reminded participants to stay active on this issue. This is why we held the Forum to Action – to engage our community in a public discussion about the role of renewable energy technology and to identify how Oregon Tech students can play a role in developing clean energy solutions.Through this forum our team has gained experience, knowledge, and support that will lead Tech-Owls in Action toward significant opportunities and achievements for Oregon Tech, the city of Wilsonville, and our community. We’d like to thank all of our speakers and the attendees for making our Forum to Action a success.