Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Busting Energy Myths
“U.S. Renewable Energy Production Set to Outpace Coal in April.”
This is the headline of a recent U.S. News & World Report article. It was read by millions of people. Do you have a problem with this statement? You should. If you’re not sure why, then this course is for you. Our goal is to address and dispel myths about energy so you are better equipped to participate in the most important decisions of your generation, namely assessing and determining a path forward that best defines our global energy transformation strategies. To do that you need to be armed with a clear understanding of key concepts such as: energy [kinetic, potential, chemical, thermal, etc.], power, heat, renewable sources, efficiency, transmission, and life cycle analysis. Throughout this seminar, groups of four students are challenged with “energy myths” and their task is to deconstruct these myths (positively and negatively) and convince their classmates in brief oral presentations that they have indeed done so. Our emphasis is on critical and analytical thinking, problem solving and presentation skills as group members engage with others in class. This seminar is all about critical evaluation of tradeoffs. What are you willing to compromise on? Nuclear waste. Transport systems. Carbon footprint. Greenhouse gas emissions. Fracking. Rare earth mineral extraction and depletion. Fossil versus non-fossil fuels. Gasoline, diesel, and battery powered vehicles. Politics. Contrails. Dams. Noise. Bird deaths. Land use. Micro grids. Climate. Air and water pollution. This class is about wrapping your arms around these very tough issues and developing a rational strategy to quantify the benefits and drawbacks of various choices. If this appeals to you, then sign up.