Alternative Energy Certificate

Seminole State College, Sanford (Orlando), Florida

The impetus for this program was the desire to integrate alternative energy into the Seminole transportation program. A visit to the Florida Solar Energy Center  to acquire parts for an electric vehicle led to the idea of developing an interdisciplinary Alternative Energy program that included not only solar but ancillary energy related courses. This program reflects the dynamism required on the part of the developers, in this case Jason Graschel, whose interest in transportation led him to electric vehicles and in turn solar energy and the eventual development of this program.

Program Description

As the demand for awareness and knowledge about sustainability and alternative energy increases, the Alternative Energy Certificate Program exposes students to emerging technologies related to energy. The focal point of this curriculum is to infuse sustainability and alternative energy curriculum broadly equipping students for opportunities upon completion as the growth of green jobs increases. Sustainability, alternative energy sources and implementation will be highlighted a well as an introduction to environmental policy in the United States.

The program contains a three-course core introductory curriculum in sustainability. Following the completion of the core courses, students will be able to choose the remainder of the program based on the specific path which the student wishes to follow. The paths are connected to increasing the student’s knowledge of emerging green technologies in engineering, design and construction. The student’s understanding of the principles taught int he classroom is enhanced with hands-on labs and real-world applications provided by faculty with extensive education and experience in the field.

Program Attributes

This program provides a broad overview of the various emerging green technologies and encompasses knowledge from various disciplines.

Case Study Interview

1. What inspired you to spearhead the effort to integrate solar content into your courses, curriculum, or programs?

I first realized the need to integrate Alternative Energy into our transportation program. Stemming from that, and after a visit to FSEC to pick up some parts for a student built electric car project, I realized that solar would be a part of a future endeavor. Years later, and a transfer to the Engineering Department at Seminole State College of Florida, I have developed the framework for an interdisciplinary Alternative Energy certificate program that has an emphasis on solar PV and Solar Thermal technologies. Taking coursework and developing relationships at FSEC have made our task much easier. Having this partnership will make our course implementation much easier.

2. What major obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

Obstacles have included time to develop the framework, gain approval from the state, garnering support from the program that would ultimately include the courses in their curriculum, and developing technological material needs. We also had to determine faculty credentials to certify our professors to teach the courses. So far we have gained support from the programs housed in the Engineering, Construction and Design school. We have also engaged the Arts and Science programs such as Chemistry and Physics. They have been very receptive to incorporating our certificate into their programs. This fall, six professors are taking graduate coursework in Sustainable Engineering at the University of Florida. This will help in the credentialing process. We are still working on funding for classroom equipment, such as materials to conduct a solar site survey, PV panels and inverters, and lab setups such as rooftop sections to mount PV. We do have funding available from our NSF grant that could help supplement our needs.

3. What were the keys to successfully achieving solar content integration (e.g., support of a person or persons; part of a planned curriculum improvement project; recommendations from industry or an advisory board; etc.)?

We are in the process of forming our Engineering Technology Advisory board, and solar technology will be a topic of discussion. A key to achieving progress in program implementation has been networking with program managers to get involved parties excited about the technology. Having the NSF grant that included language to implement alternative energy coursework into existing programs also helped to gain traction. It was easy to get institutional support, as the college will like to show the community that it cares about the environment and is training tomorrow’s technicians in this field, while not “pigeon-holing” their graduates. Instead, the certificate model allows students to obtain a degree in a traditional field with the supplement of future technology.

4. How long did the process take from initial concept presentation or proposal to implementation?

We are still in process of full implementation as we started the process last fall. We proposed curriculum for the certificate framework and first three courses: Sustainability in the Built Environment, Alternative Energy Sources, and Alternative Energy Policy in January. They were approved by the state in the Spring of 2013. We hope to run our first classes in Spring of 2014. Full solar coursework is to be added in year two, with curriculum to go to committee this fall with a Fall 2014 implementation.

5. Was this primarily a one-person effort, or did you have one or more partners who shared a significant portion of the workload?

This started with my passion for alternative energy, and came to reality after I was approached by my dean, Michael Staley. He suggested we apply for grants to support the plans we developed together. We submit proposals to help develop our programming, and hope to receive funding in the future. We have been gaining partners along the way, including Arts and Sciences. This has been a great achievement.

6. What products or services from your Regional Training Provider (RTP) and the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) were most useful to you in achieving solar content integration at your institution?

The intensive solar training course at FSEC, the upcoming commissioning course, and the relationship with John Harrison, David Block, David Click, and Don Metzger have been the key to getting us started and keep us supported.

7. Are there other products or services that you would suggest for the RTPs and/or the SITN to offer that would be helpful in the process of implementing solar content integration?

I would like to see a course that trains specifically toward the NABCEP Installer Exam. The intensive course trained toward the entry level exam, but needed more hands on time to use the solar site survey tools so students could leave with more confidence.

8. Would you be willing to share course proposals, curriculum improvement proposals, and/or curriculum outlines for the courses, curriculum, and programs that you used as part of the solar content integration process?

Yes, we consider FSEC a vital partner and prefer to share our curriculum development and program progress on a regular basis.

9. If yes, would you agree to have these materials available on the IREC web site (with links from the RTP web sites)?

Yes, especially if we develop materials using NSF grant funding. Dissemination is an important part of what we do, and want other institutions to use our work as a resource.

10. Would you be willing to be listed as a contact person on the IREC web site to share your solar content integration experience with other interested parties?


11. Would you be willing and able to specify all occupations for which the training that you offer applies (e.g., this program trains students for these occupations/jobs)?

Yes, as developed. Solar installer would be one. As we research additional upcoming job needs, we will be willing to share the information.

12. Was specific funding appropriated for solar content integration into related course, curriculum, and/or program development?

So far, we are using the NSF Career pathways ATE Grant, almost $900,000 over three years to create a pipeline of STEM students from SCPS high schools to college, with integration of alternative energy programming into existing courses. However, this is not the primary funding that we are to use for full program implementation. We hope to receive funding for this specific project.

13. If special funding was available, would you be willing to share the amount of funding on the IREC web site?

Yes, once a grant is secured we will.

Course Listings


IDS2201 Alternative Energy Sources – 3
As the demand for energy grows worldwide, there has been an increased emphasis on utilization of non-conventiona power sources. This course addresses and explores technological advances in alternative forms of energy.

IDS 2216 Alternative Energy Policy – 3
This course will expose the student to various policies and environmental regulations concerning air quality and dependence on foreign energy sources. Discussion will include enactment of policies, laws, regulations and programs with regard to conventional and alternative energy sources. Assessment of concerns over future depletion of global oil supplies and the impact to the U.S. economy will be discussed. The federal, state or local governmental response to issues concerning pollution and its impact on the number of environmental laws, the effectiveness of any proposed initiative and the extent of implementation and enforcement will be explored.

IDS2230 Sustainability in the Built Environment – 3
This course will help students understand the relationship between sustainability and buildings by addressing the three E’s of sustainability in the built environment. Students will explore the environmental influence of buildings on natural resources and the interdependence of economics, return on investment and the reduction of operating expenses. Social equality benefits to occupant production, health and quality of life will be examined. Sustainable best practices and standards will be emphasized.


ACR2930 Selected Studies in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration – 3
AER2870 Alternative Fuel and Propulsion Systems – 2
ARC2930 Selected Studies in Architectural Design – 3
BCN2230 Construction Materials and Methods I – 3
BCN2930 Selected Studies in Building Construction – 3
BCT1703 Work Place Safety and Worker’s Compensation Insurance – 3
BCT2930 Selected Studies in Building Construction Trades – 3
EET1035C Fundamentals of AC/DC Electricity – 4
EET2930C Selected Studies in Engineering Technology – 3
IND2930 Selected Studies in Interior Design – 3


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