Here at the Office of Sustainability, we love to see student groups taking sustainability into their own hands. Part of our responsibility is to encourage behavioural change at the university so that sustainability becomes inherent in the everyday actions of those on campus. Now, a team of engineering students have taken that challenge upon themselves to help students bring their own sustainability ideas into the energy sector.
The U of S Innovative Energy Team (USIET) is a student group started by engineering student Sean Sebry. An alumni of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, Sean developed a passion for finding innovation within the energy industry while working with Nexen Energy after his graduation. This passion brought him to the U of S, where he was surprised to notice an absence of energy-related engineering clubs. Using his previous student group experiences to his advantage, Sean gathered some like-minded individuals and set to working on the group’s first project: a vertical axis wind turbine built from scratch. Through the work of a small team, the group was able to have a final model prepared for demonstration at Spectrum 2016. With the addition of members from backgrounds such as journalism and finance, the group is now poised to expand and help its members become leaders in the energy industry and champions for responsible energy sources.
The group takes on members from any college, hoping to attract anyone with an interest in energy innovation. After collecting ideas and concepts from senior members, staff groups and academics at the U of S, and interested industry players, members organize themselves into teams to tackle projects together. To date, their projects include a lithium ion battery pack meant for small-scale residential applications, a vertical axis wind turbine designed for low wind speed and low altitude conditions but powerful enough to power small electronic devices, and a solar thermal generator for application in sunny remote areas. The projects are based on existing technology to allow younger members to learn about the concepts involved, but each injects an innovative element to find new ways to expand on existing technology.
“By far my favorite things about USIET are its versatility and its organic growth,” says Sebry. “The range of technologies, issues and possibilities our mission lays out for us is nearly boundless. We have solar, wind and energy-storage projects currently in the works while planning events for energy utility and nuclear power.” The group recognizes their opportunity for growth and seeks out all opportunities to do so, with plans for future speaker series involving experts in the oil and gas field to talk about challenges and innovations to be found. Now, with new additions from the Edwards School of Business, USIET is preparing a team to compete in the Alberta Energy Challenge to put together a business-related case competition. “Simply put, we are an extremely versatile club whose members’ passions for energy constantly inspires us to expand upon what we can learn from one another and accomplish together.”
With Sebry’s time at the U of S coming to an end, he is excited to see what a new executive can do with the group’s enormous potential. He hopes its members continue to build on the strong foundation they’ve build by funding and creating brilliant projects, continuing their Energy Talks series to generate interest beyond the engineering department, and to see USIET alumni take their experiences and passion into the world of energy. If Sebry had one wish, it would be to see USIET takes its place among other valuable U of S institutions such as the Huskies Motorsports or U of S Space Team. “Western Canada has a rich history in energy, and in this time of global change the U of S has an opportunity to become a leader in innovative energy discoveries. I am confident USIET will play a small part in contributing to Western Canada’s emerging role as a global hub for energy technology, knowledge, and innovation.”