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Trend Newsletter: College News 2017

April 27, 2017

New clean energy facility accelerates testing of cleantech innovations

The Clean Energy Institute (CEI), a UW research unit, recently opened the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds to increase the rate at which science and engineering discoveries turn into market-adopted clean energy technologies. The state-of-the-art facility has labs for manufacturing prototypes, testing devices and integrating systems. CEI unveiled the Testbeds at a celebration with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, cleantech leaders and researchers on February 16.

“The process of taking a clean energy research discovery and making a prototype, then rigorously testing and refining it for market readiness, requires equipment and expertise that is expensive and rarely available when and where you need it,” said CEI director and Boeing-Sutter Professor of Chemical Engineering Daniel Schwartz.

The Washington State Legislature provided $8 million to design and build the Testbeds. The 15,000-square-foot facility gives researchers and cleantech businesses customized training and access to top-quality fabrication, characterization and computational instruments.

At the Testbeds, users can print low-cost, thin-film solar cells and electronic devices using novel electronic inks; fabricate and test new battery systems to increase performance without compromising safety; and develop and test energy management software that controls and optimizes how batteries, vehicles and buildings integrate with a clean energy grid.

“The Washington Clean Energy Testbeds are a tremendous resource for Washington’s and the world’s visionary clean energy entrepreneurs and researchers,” said Gov. Inslee. “I applaud CEI for building a center that will lead to the development of technologies to benefit our economy and environment. Our state’s commitment to clean energy remains strong.”

College of Engineering’s STARS program wins $2.2M to improve access for low-income students

STARS, a program aimed at increasing the number of economically and educationally disadvantaged Washington students who graduate with engineering degrees, has received a three-year, $2.2 million grant from the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS) Opportunity Expansion Fund that is expected to significantly increase the number of students the program can serve during that time period.

The College of Engineering’s Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program is one of three university initiatives across the state to receive funding from the Microsoft-supported Opportunity Expansion Fund. The WSOS fund is the first-of-its-kind partnership in the country, combining resources of the state with those of major employers and private donors. It was established by the legislature to help Washington universities fund programming for high-demand bachelor’s degrees in STEM education.

STARS offers students an additional year of academic support, mentoring and funding to build learning skills and help them “catch up” before applying to engineering departments. Historically, only 33 percent of UW students who hold Pell grants and intend to become engineers successfully complete those degrees — typically because of inadequate high school preparation.

STARS currently serves 32 incoming students each year, who spend an extra “redshirt” year at the UW taking prerequisite classes from basic algebra to calculus to chemistry.

The new funding will expand support to up to 125 additional students each year from economically disadvantaged backgrounds — including community college transfer students — at the UW. The College estimates that more than 180 additional students from low-income backgrounds will complete engineering degrees over the three-year period.