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ASU receives $300,000 grant to assist Mexican university with renewable energy programs



Article Published: Dec. 10, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Appalachian State University has received a three-year, $300,000 grant to enhance the capacity of a Mexican partner institution, Fundacion Universidad de Las Americas Puebla (FUDLAP), with its renewable energy and energy efficiency educational programs and activities.

The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development/Mexico through Higher Education for Development under the Training, Internships, Exchanges and Scholarships (TIES) Program.

Appalachian is one of only five U.S. universities to receive funding under the TIES Phase IV Cycle 1 Competition. The award was announced by the USAID/Mexico Mission Director at the TIES conference that took place in Veracruz, Mexico, and attended by Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor for international education and development and Jeff Tiller, chair of the Department of Technology, who represented Appalachian at the conference.

The project will be directed by Lutabingwa, Tiller, and Dr. Jeff Ramsdell, coordinator of building science in Appalachian's Department of Technology.

"I am very pleased that Appalachian has been awarded this project," Lutabingwa said. "The project will greatly facilitate our efforts to deepen the relationship between Appalachian and FUDLAP beyond the traditional student and faculty exchanges. This project will lay the foundation for developing innovative joint academic programs that match several of our existing programs."

The goal of the project is to promote public and private expansion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency technologies, thereby increasing efficiency of energy use and decreasing Mexico's dependence on fossil fuels.

Four objectives will be achieved under this project:

? Increasing the capacity of FUDLAP students and faculty to conduct research on, and contribute to curriculum development related to renewable energy and energy efficiency
? Strengthening FUDLAP curriculum in renewable energy and energy efficiency so that the faculty and students are better prepared to carry out research and conduct pilot and demonstration renewable energy projects
? Building capacity among public institutions to develop and implement energy sector policies and regulations
? Promoting the use of small-scale renewable energy systems in rural communities in Mexico
According to Tiller, nine graduate students from FUDLAP will take graduate-level courses and conduct research in Appalachian's Department of Technology beginning in the fall 2010 semester. At the end of their experience, the students will receive a certificate in renewable energy and energy efficiency issued by Appalachian.

The courses they take at Appalachian will transfer to FUDLAP and count toward their master's degree in environmental engineering with an emphasis in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

In addition, nine faculty and staff members from each institution will participate in exchanges between Appalachian and FUDLAP. The faculty members will be in residence at each institution for 21 days to one month of teaching, conducting research, seminars and visiting renewable energy sites in the United States or Mexico. The faculty/staff exchanges also will help strength FUDLAP's new major in alternative energies that will be incorporated into the newly established Ph.D. and master's degree program in environmental engineering.

Two main outreach activities are planned to build capacity among public institutions and use of renewable energies in communities in Mexico. The first outreach activity will involve organizing a renewable energy conference at FUDLAP in May/June 2011.

This conference will include participants from higher education, private industry and government to discuss new trends in alternative energy generation.

The goal is to convince government officials/ and decision-makers to invest adequate resources in the development of renewable energies in Mexico.

"As part of this project, we also plan to conduct outreach activities in rural communities in Mexico to install small-scale renewable energy systems," Ramsdell said. "This activity will involve faculty and students at both Appalachian and FUDLAP. A select group of faculty members from both universities will offer joint courses in specific topics related to renewable energy. The course sessions will be related to specific energy issues of rural Mexico."

Appalachian and FUDLAP students enrolled in the courses will work in teams to develop solutions to those problems using the available renewable energy technologies. Students will meet with each other either by e-mail or video conference to work on their projects. The best solution(s) will be selected for installation and testing in a rural community in Mexico. The winning team(s) from Appalachian will travel to Mexico at the end of the semester to meet face-to-face with the FUDLAP team to work on the installation and testing plan. The initial fieldwork will be carried out mainly in two rural poor communities located in isolated regions of Mexico - Los Llanos and Las Cucharas.

According to Lutabingwa, "Appalachian and FUDLAP have been working together since 1999 when the two institutions signed an agreement that provides a framework for student and faculty exchanges and collaborative research activities. While most of the student and faculty exchanges thus far have been in the social sciences and humanities disciplines, the TIES project will provide an opportunity to develop exchanges in the natural sciences and engineering disciplines."

TIES is an important part of the Partnership for Prosperity, a key bilateral initiative between the United States and Mexico, which started in 2001 and focuses on promoting economic growth and higher living standards for the citizens of both nations. In this public-private alliance, both governments act as facilitators to leverage private sector expertise and resources to address shared development goals.

TIES seek fully collaborative relationships between Mexican and U.S. higher education institutions and their public and private sector partners on both sides of the border.

TIES enhances the capacity of higher education institutions of both nations to examine mutual development problems, work in strategic alliances to develop solutions, and create the basis for Mexican participants to respond more effectively to development challenges and opportunities.
TIES University Partnerships have demonstrated significant results through increased capacity of faculty and administration of the Mexican partners and greater involvement and outreach to Mexican communities.

For more information, contact Lutabingwa in the Office of International Education and Development at (828) 262-2046 or (lutabingwajl@appstate.edu)

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