Inter-disciplinary approach trains students for wind energy careers
As part of the Wind Energy Initiative, Iowa State University has launched an inter-disciplinary minor designed to prepare its students for a career in one of the most rapidly growing technology sectors, wind energy.
A collaboration among of the university’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Engineering, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the 15-credit minor encompasses the wind energy industry’s many disciplines—aerodynamics, materials science, mechanics and meteorology, as well as civil and construction, electrical, and industrial engineering.
“We felt that for Iowa State graduates to be more marketable, and to demonstrate that the university is serious about wind energy, we needed to offer this minor,” said Frank Peters, associate professor in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering and chair of the Wind Energy Minor Committee.
The wind energy curriculum is a natural fit for Iowa State’s prestige reputation in science and engineering education, and for Iowa, which leads the nation in wind energy jobs with as many as 7,000 employees, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s U.S. Wind Industry 2011 Market Report. Iowa is also listed as second in the nation in total wind energy capacity behind only Texas, according to the U. S. Department of Energy.
Peters said currently fourteen companies with wind energy interests recruit on campus including manufacturers, wind farm developers and owners, maintenance providers, meteorology, utilities and national laboratories.
“For the student, the minor gets them to see wind energy as truly inter-disciplinary, in that the wind resource, machinery, transmission, quality control, economics, construction, and manufacturing all need to be considered to make wind energy a competitive energy resource in the long run. For the industry, the minor makes the graduate’s training and qualifications more identifiable.”
The minor is available to any student at Iowa State with the necessary math and physics prerequisites. Two core courses, Engr 340X Introduction to Wind Energy: System Design and Delivery, and Aero E 381 Introduction to Wind Energy, are required. The remaining nine credits can be selected from 22 elective courses in engineering and meteorology.
“In this way, a meteorology student, an industrial engineering student, and an electrical engineering student will have the same foundation in the wind energy minor,” said Peters, “but their remaining classes will be more closely associated with their discipline.”
The Wind Energy Initiative (WEI) at Iowa State University aims to facilitate the nation’s achievement of 20 percent of energy from wind by 2030. It would strategically drive heavy wind energy growth in Iowa and the United States through leadership in research, education and outreach. Find out more about the Wind Energy Initiative at Iowa State University at www.engineering.iastate.edu/wei/.