Sustainable Tech Leads to New Paths
“Ihad never been on a plane before, so my nerves were all over the place,” said Santa Monica College student Michael Saldivar, who flew to Washington, DC, to present an innovative photovoltaic project at a conference organized by the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Science Foundation (NSF). “I’ve never been to the East Coast,” he added, “so I was happy the Sustainable Technologies Program gave me the opportunity to travel.”
Michael, an electrical engineering major, shared a conference presentation booth with fellow SMC student Christopher Molina. They demonstrated how to determine the maximum electrical output of a solar cell—an electrical device that converts sunlight into electricity—to hundreds of attendees from across the nation.
The demonstration was based on training modules developed for a photovoltaic class by SMC physics professor Steve Paik, with contributions by SMC mathematics professor Ebrahim Jahangard. The effort began more than two years ago with “Enhancing Solar Photovoltaic Education,” an NSF grant that, among other activities, developed internships to place 15 students on career paths in the solar industry.
SMC renewable energy professor and NSF-grant Principal Investigator Stuart Cooley also presented some of the new technology used in his classes. His demonstration included a virtual reality (VR) system that can “place students in an immersive learning environment, allowing one to experience the sights and sounds of an outdoor, live-training environment in the safety of their classroom seat,” says Stuart. “Having that first-person perspective helps engage students and brings a little more realism to the classroom-based learning.”
“Hiring is ongoing in this industry, and SMC students frequently land a job before the end of even one semester.”
– SMC Renewable Energy Professor Stuart Cooley
SMC’s nationally recognized Sustainable Technologies Program—launched in response to the rapidly expanding need for skilled workers in the “green jobs” sector—offers top-of-the-line training for employment in solar energy, recycling, resource management, and other sustainability-oriented industries.
Students gain industry-recognized credentials through certificates of achievement and department certificates in Solar Photovoltaic Installation and in Recycling & Resource Management, and a department certificate in Energy Efficiency. Students can also earn an Associate degree in Solar PV Installation and in Recycling & Resource Management, a workforce development effort established by a U.S. Department of Labor grant and pioneered by SMC.
About one in 80 new jobs across the country is a solar job, according to Labor Market Information. “Hiring is ongoing in this industry, and SMC students frequently land a job before the end of even one semester!” says Stuart.
To develop internships and volunteer opportunities for SMC students, the program partners with local installation companies like Solar City and nonprofits like Grid Alternatives, which installs solar panels on low-income homes.
“SMC has a very student-friendly environment,” says Michael, who is one of about 25 in this semester’s sustainability technology cohort. “The faculty and students promote a great learning atmosphere. The school provides plenty of resources, and has a number of extracurricular clubs and activities that you can involve yourself with. A majority of the professors are wonderful at teaching, and actually care about their students.”
Visit www.smc.edu/stp to find out more about SMC’s Sustainable Technologies Program.