Two hundred thirty-nine students from 18 high schools attended the second annual Iowa High School Renewable Energy Conference held at Nevada High School. Through collaboration with community and regional companies and resources, students were able to learn about career opportunities in a multitude of sessions and tours through out the day on Wednesday, March 26.
Off-campus tours and sessions included DuPont’s advanced biofuel utilizing crop stover, Couser Cattle Company feeding of co-products, Lincolnway Energy’s ethanol production and BECON Research facility. BECON is part of the Iowa Energy Center and is managed by Norm Olson PE. While students were out in the community, Gates Hall and the high school auditorium were busy with sessions on wind turbine technology, provided by Iowa Lakes Community College’s Dan Lutat. Lutat is the program director and is a leader in the U.S. in preparation of wind turbine technicians. Solar FX of Ames inspired students on the current status of photovoltaic energy and opportunities. Back from last year was Eric Olson of Indian Hills Community College, explaining bioprocessing of grains to produce a wide variety of products used domestically, and the need for qualified technicians.
A college fair was also added to this year’s conference; several students commented on the benefit of being able to visit with the colleges. “I really have to give credit to IHSREC chairperson Zach Thomas and his student committee members for their dedication to this endeavor and putting in the extra time to make it successful,” stated Kevin Cooper, Nevada High School ag ed instructor and FFA advisor. The first annual IHSREC was held on March 25, 2013, with a Planting a Seed grant provided by DuPont and the Iowa Soybean Association. This year’s committee and financial sponsor was the Nevada High School ag ed department and Nevada FFA chapter. Students have already started planning for 2015 by identifying growth opportunities, and what new areas could be added.
At this time, with transportation costs, Gates Hall rental, lunch and other charges, the conference expenses were $3,348. However, some of this will be offset by the $3 per student fee, bringing the total conference price under $3,000. Nevada FFA members had approved a budget of $4,500 earlier in the year.