NTU’s Energy Systems Program Finds Value in Hands-on Learning Experiences

Wyves Moon, Randy Anderson, Charleton Thompson, Instructor Ray Griego, Matthew Geneeha, Braison Bebo, and Ordell Yazzie.

Published April 13, 2018

CROWNPOINT, NEW MEXICO – In recent years, renewable energy sources have become increasingly pervasive across the nation with federal, state, and local projects developed toward the harvesting of these sources. Navajo Technical University’s Associate of Applied Science degree in Energy Systems has stayed up-to-date with the latest renewable energy trends and has found value in hands-on learning and research opportunities that reinforce instruction.

Over the last several years, NTU’s Energy Systems program has used instruction to help further NTU’s campus by installing solar hot boxes at the NTU Veterinary Technician barn, as well as monitoring solar lighting systems and message boards. The benefit of these projects has helped NTU in its day-to-day operations, but it has also helped students learn while illuminating the potential for scaling each project on the Navajo Nation.

Ray Griego shows his students equipment set up and procedures during a classroom demonstration.

“The students are learning a great deal about renewable energy and its applications, [which] creates more awareness about types of alternative energy systems to surrounding communities,” explained Energy System program director Ray Griego, who regularly updates the program with current developments through the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technical Education (CREATE). “The program prepares students for employment within the industry. It would be great to see them incorporate these ideas on the Navajo Nation.”

NTU’s participation with CREATE interfaces six peer institutions; Madison Area Technical College, College of the Canyons, Lane Community College, Delaware Technical Community College, Heartland Community College, Navajo Technical College. They support each other by providing resources, mentorship for instructors, industry partnerships, and updating curriculum that meet standards for Advanced Technical Education (ATE). The partnership enables the university to stay informed of new ideas and advances for students to have more employment opportunities upon completion of the program.

NTU student Alvin Grieve installs a solar hot box at the NTU Veterinary Technician barn as part of his learning experience in NTU’s Energy Systems program. The project help keep animals warm throughout the winte

This May, NTU’s Energy Systems program will graduate student Wyvus Moon of Teec Nos Pos, AZ, who has a summer internship opportunity lined up in Los Alamos, NM. Moon will be interning with the Los Alamos National Laboratories where he will work on specific energy projects.

“I’m excited to be going on to Los Alamos. There I’ll be implementing a majority of what I learned from Mr. Griego and the Energy Systems program,” said Mr. Moon. “At Los Alamos Labs, I’ll be working with a 50 Mega Watt system on a 50 acre grid tie system among other projects they have lined up for me.”

Griego developed NTU’s Energy Systems program in 2001 after a long tenure as an instructor in NTU’s Electrical Trades certificate program. A $300,000 grant from NASA supported the infant program and developed the initiative to teach students about renewable energy systems. Once the program was launched, the program began to seek other resources to supplement his classroom with equipment and supplies, as well as to fund projects that could benefit student learning.

“The students are responsible for the digital sign near the intersection on our main campus and they maintain it regularly,” said Griego, who used the NASA funds to support the project. “Together we installed it, which gives the students a sense of ownership of the work they are learning.”

In addition to the hands-on projects that resulted from the NASA funds, Griego has also been successful in obtaining funds that contribute to research. Grants from Arizona State University (ASU) and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) have helped fund a solar panel research project that tested materials for their durability and efficiency at specific altitudes and locations on the Navajo Nation. The panels were installed in Luepp, AZ and were monitored by students NTU’s program.

Wyvus Moon explains how photovoltaic cells capture energy to light up the LED light he created in the class. Wyvus was selected for an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratories for the summer.

NTU’s two-year Energy Systems program introduces students to courses in electricity, magnetism, solar panel systems, and wind generation.  The program also teaches students about basic residential and commercial wiring, programming controls and electrical motors aligned with the National Electrical Code (NEC). Altogether, students who complete the program have the experience in solar street lighting, photovoltaic electrical systems, wind turbine fabrication and installation and collection of wind resources.

To learn more about NTU’s A.A.S. degree in Energy Systems, please contact Ray Griego at (505) 786-4308 or by email at rgriego@navajotech.edu.

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