Posted by: seedfoundation | September 20, 2011

SEA Change

Hello y’all, and especially to those who check in on this blog regularly.  Long time no talk.  I’ve been away for a bit, that is to say I recently graduated from the Oregon Institute of Technology with my Renewable Energy Engineering degree.  Please hold your applause…thank you thank you…please stop I’m blushing.  Since finishing the final lingering class on August 12th, I’ve been on hiatus in Spokane Washington hanging out at my parents house.  By hanging out I mean watching English Premier League soccer games, movies, reading books, doing yard work and getting out of bed when I feel like.  Oh yeah, I’ve been thinking about looking for work too.  That comes next.

With regard to this blog, it was originally intended to be the representative OIT REE student run blog and for the last two years I’ve done my best to keep it updated and OIT related.  Because I am now an alumni and no longer an estudiante, I attempted to pass on the blog to the next generation of students.  Unfortunately, at least for OIT, none of the students were willing to maintain it so the blog has been taken down from the OIT website.  The REE program is grueling, so no sour grapes.  Fortunately for me then, I now have my own personal blog which will be complete with my thoughts, feelings and deepest secrets heehee.   Basically I’m going to write about anything that tickles my fancy; if it offends you then comment back, if you agree then send a nod.  If you’re new to the blog – greetings.  If you are returning, then welcome back to the next round.  This year is going to be fun.


Posted by: seedfoundation | May 12, 2011

Software Update

U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A!………U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Nothing like our beloved and tired football-esque chant to lighten the streets of D.C. after the calculated ‘blood out’ of the infamous Osama Bin Laden. If the World Cup 2010 showcased the overuse of the chant and the desperate need for an actual national soccer anthem, then the celebration of Osama’s death definitely highlighted its absurdity. To be fair, he had some crazy ideas – that’s for sure. He masterminded bombings and terrorist acts over many years. On the U.S. side of things, the Navy SEALS are no joke. They are the baddest of the badasses and anyone is a fool to think the Osama operation wouldn’t make a great movie. But when did celebrating death become fun and cool?

 Hold on Mr. Writer, Osama deserved what he got; it was, you might say, divine justice.

How about the 100,000 plus civilians dead in the wake of the U.S. bombing and occupation of Iraq? What about the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan known as the Kill Team? They have systematically killed civilians, including children, in Afghanistan. The government will slap them on the wrist and cover-up, but you won’t hear anyone wishing to celebrate their death – nor should they.  Celebrating any death is absurd.

The quagmire of politics surrounding geostrategic occupations, (centered on fossil fuels), always result in extensive ‘negative externalities’. The disparity in wealth, energy consumption and energy resources between the U.S. and foreign, often Middle Eastern countries, undoubtedly perpetuate the dilemmas.

The truth has been long known by some and is becoming more widespread every day. We need to get off fossil fuels, particularly foreign fossil fuels. Generating the energy needs domestically pulls the military, the occupations and the subjugation away from foreign soil. The seeds of discontent, so to say, stop taking root amongst the Arab poor and disenfranchised.

In the long term it’s impossible to know how everything will pan out over the coming decade. The Osama operation certainly comes at a peculiar time; during the Arab revolutions across the region, sparked by a younger generation of the mostly educated, internet savvy dissatisfied. Osama’s death comes after a decade of economic turmoil, Homeland Security, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sept. 11th. Let us look forward, not with celebration, but with reflection. With a greater understanding of our place in this world with respect to energy consumption and geopolitics, let’s use what we’ve learned and what we have already, to develop an energy independent country over the next decade.

-Czon Nadeem

Posted by: seedfoundation | April 1, 2011

El Poder de la Primavera

Ah, spring quarter, we welcome thee with open arms.  Two quarters of short days, constant rain and daily pledges to leave it all behind and move to Guadalajara, have finally passed.  For today, and for the remainder of the spring quarter, we, that is REE, collectively take the next breath of our multi-pronged education – with a little more sunny cheer.

By now the newbies…sorry..the freshies… sorry again.. the extremely talented and dedicated first year class, have come to terms with what they got themselves into.  The yadda yadda DC and AC circuits are now a relic of the past and the real meat is about to start cooking.  Electromechanical energy conversion systems and the electric power classes are two required spring offerings, both proceeding a passing grade in DC and AC circuits.  These classes are fundamental for having a grasp of how renewable energy technologies operate and how they affect the grid.  In tandem, and as a departure from last year, the power systems senior level track will partner with the lower level electric power class.  The power systems seniors are enrolled in contemporary power systems, the third and final offering of the series.  To better prepare the students for the real world, Professor Bass and Professor Rytkonen have designated the seniors as managers for different teams in the electric power class to oversee their designs and progress for the class project.  On top of this, the seniors must give a highly technical presentation on some kind of, you guessed it, contemporary power system.

If all of this sounds rather practical and worthwhile for career prospects and integration, well, it is.  The comprehensive approach by the instructors in the REE program is creating flexible, well-rounded problem solvers.  For this, I can’t be more grateful.  Looking back at the last two plus years, and without getting all gooey and sentimental, I have to say it’s been a great experience.  I will be graduating after this quarter and I feel really good about the opportunities ahead.  The amount of power engineers and related positions retiring in the next few years is insane.  The amount of newbies and freshies we need to fill in the growing void – astronomical.  Any recent issue of P and E will fill in the details, but yes we have a national dilemma.

Time to put on some shorts and fire up the induction motor.


Posted by: seedfoundation | January 31, 2011

Meet the Local Bakery

Many of us here today, unbeknownst, owe our existence to something pervasive and ubiquitous.  No, I’m not referring to the golden arches.  But yes, this something has quite a lot to do with the golden arches.  Potatoes, wheat, corn, soy and other crops used as ingredients in our beloved Happy Meals, all grow on scales impossible a century ago.  Industrial scale agriculture has not been enabled because we landed on the moon, nor because we’ve put more seeds into the ground.  By some estimates, without industrial scale fertilizer, the amount of arable land on the planet would supply, at most, enough calories, in the form of crops and feed for animals, to sustain a population of around 4 billion.  Yet, here we are today approaching 7 billion, looking more and more like a happy little “McVirus with shoes,” [channeling Bill Hicks, Rant in E Minor].

Without the synthesis of synthetic ammonia in the early 20th century through a process developed by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch (Germany), the population of the planet would have likely leveled off around 4 billion.  Before this process was realized, the issue for agriculture had always been usable nitrogen.  Nitrogen is essentially the limiting factor for plant growth.  All plants need nitrogen, yet even though the atmosphere is over 75% nitrogen, plants cannot use it unless it is readily absorbable.  The nitrogen in the air is N2, triple bonded, and very stable.  Generally, plants cannot break this triple bond because it requires a lot of energy.  Manure, urine and nitrates like saltpeter have traditionally been used as plant fertilizer, but they have been historically and relatively in short supply.  All of these contain nitrogen that is accessible to plants and helps them grow.   Since our bodies also need nitrogen for growth, (we have it in our cells and DNA), then we too are limited in growth by the amount of usable nitrogen.  As you may have concluded, we cannot obtain usable nitrogen from breathing.  It stays inert.  We breathe it in, and then breathe it out as N2.

The Haber-Bosch process, scaled up before World War I by BASF under the direction of Carl Bosch, has penetrated every corner of the planet.  It is estimated that the process uses 1-2% of the world’s energy each year.  It is also estimated that the process currently sustains about one third of the planet’s population.  The process produces ammonia (NH3), a form of nitrogen that can be used by our beloved crops as fertilizer.  This fertilizer, often in the form of anhydrous ammonia or urea, is used for more than just our McCrops and feed for our McCows.  Fertilizer use is ubiquitous for crop growing.

The production of ammonia involves two inputs – nitrogen and hydrogen.  The nitrogen comes from the air, concentrated with an air separation unit.  The hydrogen comes from natural gas, which is mostly methane.  Steam methane reforming, (SMR) is the process of reacting methane with high temperature, high pressure water to produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen.  The carbon monoxide is then reacted with more water at high temperatures and high pressures, called a water-gas shift reaction, to produce more hydrogen and carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere and causes little baby polar bears to drown in the Arctic.  3-5% of the world’s natural gas is used as feedstock for ammonia production.  90% of ammonia production uses natural gas as a hydrogen feedstock.  Oil and coal are not the only fossil fuels that have permeated every nook and cranny.  Natural Gas is at the party too.  In essence our transportation needs, electricity needs and caloric needs every day, are directly tied to the consumption of fossil fuels.

On a lighter note, let’s rebel against fossil fuels!  It’s easy, just eat tree bark, stop using electricity and walk everywhere!  Oh yeah, and stop wearing clothes too.

As we all know, or at least some of us know, fossil fuels will someday be gone.  Sooner, I think than many people believe.  What is to be done, with the world in such a predicament?  One option is to produce the hydrogen feedstock for ammonia production with electrolysis.  Electrolysis produces hydrogen with electricity and water as the input.  If the electricity is clean and cheap, the hydrogen is clean and competitive in the market.  There is also research being done with solid state ammonia synthesis (SSAS) cells.  These cells combine both the hydrogen production from water with the ammonia synthesis reaction in one cell.  The production cost savings could be substantial.  At some point, something along these lines will have to be done if we still want to enjoy our beloved McRibs and McNuggets.








*Disclaimer- I don’t eat or promote the eating of McDonald’s food.  It’s ok if you do.


Posted by: seedfoundation | January 6, 2011

The Dawn of Bumper Cars

Oregon Institute of Technology has always been “kind of a big deal”.  Songs have been written, rivers have been named and famous artists have found inspiration amongst the elegant and cultured halls of the Harmony campus.  Although some have called Oregon Tech the MIT of the west, namely me in a recent blog post, I would argue the school is more comparable to an established and multi-cultured Oxford.  The prestige of being associated with such an institution is precisely the reason we now find an electric car resting near the backdoor with the brand name Mitsubishi.

The Mitsubishi "i", don't be hatin' playa'!

Loaned to the students for test driving, the Mitsubishi “i”, is a 100% electric car slated for U.S. release in early Fall 2011.  The car features a lithium-ion battery pack with an average range of 85 km per charge.  Connected to a household charger at 110 volts and 15 amps, the car can be fully charged in 13 hours.  At 220 volts and 15 amps, the vehicle can be expected to halve the charging time – 6 hours.  With a three phase 200 volt, 60 kW “quickcharger”, the car can be charged 80% in 30 minutes.  The “quickcharger” option has yet to be standardized to my knowledge.  Different voltages and amperages may be used for higher power “quickchargers”, but the 30 minute range for a 80% charge will be likely.

Other than the ability to fly by blind pedestrians without their notice, (which brings up an important safety issue!), the Mitsubishi “i” at OIT was apparently manufactured by drunks!  They put the steering wheel on the right side!  Oh yeah, we have the Japanese version.  It’s still drivable, although a student turned the windshield wipers on, when he wanted the left turn signal, during his first test drive.

John Grieser and I were also granted permission to joyride the “i” to the nearest Cha Cha Cha.  Besides the blank stares we encountered, what stood out most during our epic, futuristic three mile journey was the DC induced torque of the machine.  Pressing down the peddle produces an almost immediate acceleration response.  Buzzing around the Clackamas streets has never felt so light and easy.

Tomorrow will be test drive day for the OIT students.  To promote our prestige and to inspire more happy songs to be sung about us, I suggest to the other students – give it a spin.

Kristopher Allen Vinson and Jon-Michael Cohn checking out the interior

Posted by: seedfoundation | November 16, 2010

The Smart Grid…Still a Little Sluggish

The first ever REE Power Systems Analysis class was granted the privilege of attending the first Oregon smart grid conference on November 9 2010, appropriately titled “Smarter Policy for a Smarter Grid:  The First Smart Grid Oregon Public Policy Conference.”

The speakers, diverse insiders from different walks of the energy industry and energy political realm, all seemed to agree on a central theme.  No one really has a clue exactly what the smart grid will entail.  Yes, there will be new things.  Yes, there will be stuff too.  Oh, and I almost forgot, it is definitely going to cost a lot of money.  Like a shit ton.  (By the way, a shit ton is approximately equal to how many BTUs a ton of shit produces in one hour when combusted.  I apologize for that.)

More specifically, the smart grid will likely consist of a wide assortment of different end-use meters and controllers, transmission and distribution line sensors, substation sensors; wireless, fiber optic and transmission line communications likely using internet protocols, newly formed aggregators and asset management networks etc.  How all of these things will operate and fit together as a coherent whole is probably better understood after a few hits of LSD.  No, I don’t condone the use of tryptamine base hallucinogens for alternative cognitive perceptions; yes, the implementation of the smart grid is a mind twist.

Transmission Lines

The speakers also emphasized the revolutionary nature of this implementation – revolutionary in the sense that it will be chaotic and unpredictable.  One of the speakers, an engineer from PGE, essentially stated that currently the industry knows about 10% of what to expect with the smart grid.  The rest will develop over time, in a large part through trial and error and with increased technological development.

Another speaker stressed the importance of viewing the smart grid as an “intelligent grid”, meaning more than anything the grid will have the ability to communicate in multiple directions rather than simply operating as a large, incoherent machination.  He went on to affirm the smart grid will not create an internet for the grid.  Energy production, transmission and distribution are nothing like the internet and they never have been.  The grid, because of its complexity, its size and its requirement of reliability, is a different beast and shouldn’t be treated like data or communication assets.  Different laws and statutes need to be developed and considered for a smart grid to distinguish the two realms and provide the grid with ever greater reliability.

Consumers can expect to see greater participation in the energy markets.  They will be able to have more control over their energy bills and possibly become an active participant in energy production.  Besides installing ground source heat pumps to save or sink energy, consumers may have the option to provide energy to the grid from installed solar panels during times of high demand, or even better, with their ELECTRIC CARS!!!

A smart grid related pilot program known as V2G, or Vehicle 2 Grid, will let owners of electric vehicles sign a contract to receive a stipend for energy provided from their car battery, to the grid, during peak energy times.  This allows the utility to balance the grid and provides the car owner with income.  By some estimates this could be as high as $7000 per year, but will most likely be on the order of $2000.  Of course there are issues with this kind of program.  Lithium-ion batteries, the most prevalent in electric vehicles, see decreased life span with constant charging and discharging.  This would likely be insignificant if utilities discharge the idle car batteries lightly, but the battery packs can still cost up to 30% of the car.  Who then, should own the battery when it’s being used by more than one party?

Some Day

If there was one thing to learn from the smart grid conference and the coming revolution, it’s that there is a lot still to figure out.  Many different parties have interests at stake and new parties are coming to the table for a bite.

Along the wayside will fall many false starts and false pretenders, but the next decade will surely see many fascinating advances toward a more intelligent grid and a more coherent energy policy.


Posted by: seedfoundation | November 10, 2010

2010 OIT Student Showcase

Check out the 2010 OIT Africa Showcase on December 1st 2010!


Posted by: seedfoundation | October 13, 2010

Perspectives from Africa

Ladies and gentlemen we are back with the final installment of ‘Perspectives’, the ongoing series of audio interviews highlighting the REE students’ experiences in Africa.

E.B. – Hi Mike Cohn, thanks for joining me today on Perspectives.  So this is your first trip to the continent of Africa correct?

M.C. – This is my second.

E.B. – Well that’s pretty cool.  Have you ever been to Tanzania before?

M.C. – No.

E.B. – And you guys left August 15 and you just returned last week, so September 20th?

M.C. – That is correct.

E.B. – Excellent.

M.C. – Are these going to be yes or no questions?

E.B. – No no.  Do you mind briefly summarizing what you guys did in Africa?

M.C. – Well, the trip was through Solar HOPE and we were going there to install solar systems in the rural parts of Tanzania.  We did twelve installs with one water purification system.


Mike and Co. after an all day solar install


E.B. – What were some things that really stood out about the local populations access to energy compared to Portland?

M.C. – We went to some pretty rural areas where you drive for many hours without seeing a single power line to these small villages that are very localized.  The majority of the populations remain in these villages because of the level of poverty there.

E.B. – Do you think solar energy will benefit these people?

M.C. – The question came up, ‘is electricity a necessity or a luxury?’  Over here it’s definitely a necessity but the group consensus was that having electricity and water purification is a luxury.  It’s shown in the expected life rate of 45 years for the common person.


Urban Tanzania


E.B. – Will access to solar energy increase the lifespan of some of these people?

M.C. – I feel that’s it’s a good starting point to building a proper infrastructure there that’s based on healthcare education and westernized technologies to bring commerce and a healthier lifestyle.  It mainly comes down to better education and that can be achieved through the simplicities of having [LED] lights that allow the schools to stay open longer hours.

E.B. – One of the main purposes in my understanding was to install LED lamps and effectively replace kerosene lamps because the lamps are dangerous and cause health problems for the students.   Do you want to comment on that?

M.C. – That’s definitely true but as we saw it’s not cost effective unless there is an outside funder.  Kerosene and diesel is going to be way cheaper along with alternative biofuels than bringing technology over there.  Each system cost between $1000-2000 whereas buying a lantern is incredibly cheap.  So there is definitely a barrier.

E.B. – What were some of the highlights of the trip?

M.C. – This solidified my understanding of what I’ve learned in this program at OIT.  It seemed like it [what I’ve learned] was more theoretical and it had no validation until this trip.  It was very enjoyable because I didn’t realize how much I’ve learned until I put a huge solar system that benefits all these little kids that have never seen movies before and are amazed by light switches.


Hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti


E.B. – Are you glad you did this trip and would you recommend it to other OIT REE students?

M.C. – Absolutely, I feel like this should be offered multiple times a year with many focuses – not just solar but also water purification and building infrastructure.  I definitely see myself doing more work in Tanzania.  I’m not sure if it will be through solar HOPE but in some way.  I think there are a lot of opportunities that relate to improving the infrastructure as well as a health sector and education.  It’s really easy and there is so much money out that is out there.   Very few people are utilizing the government incentives.

E.B. – Is there anything else you want to add about your trip to Tanzania?

M.C. – I’m just amazed by the country.  I loved it there.  It’s so simple but we had such an impact on just being there and applying the knowledge that we think is common sense over here.

E.B. – Thank you for your time Mike.


Sunrise over Africa atop Mt. Kilimanjaro


For more information on Solar HOPE, visit


Posted by: seedfoundation | October 5, 2010

Perspectives from Africa

Ladies and gentlemen this is the next entry in the audio interviews known as ‘Perspectives’.  My second guest is Brandon Little who recently returned from Africa.

E.B. – Hi Brandon, thanks for joining me on the show today.  How are you doing?

B.L. – I’m doing great.

E.B. – I understand you joined the crew a little later because your sister was getting married.  Everyone arrived sometime around August 16th and 17th.  When did you arrive in Tanzania?

B.L. – August 25th.

E.B. – How many of the solar installations were you involved with?

B.L. – I installed [solar installations] seven through thirteen.

E.B. – And you did all the safaris and the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb?

B.L. – Affirmative.

E.B. – And then you stayed a few extra days and went scuba diving in Zanzabar, correct?

B.L. – Sí.

E.B. – How would you describe the state of energy in rural Tanzania and why were the solar installations and LED lamps important for these people?

B.L. – The rural electricity situation is essentially nonexistent.  In a lot of parts you can see power lines right above places that have no power.  The LED lamps and installations are extremely important because right now they pretty much live by the sun.  Which there is nothing really wrong with that, but it cuts their days pretty short.  When it’s dark out, the school day is over.  There is no more studying.  If there is, then it’s with the kerosene lamps.  If it [a kerosene lamp] doesn’t kill them, it makes many people sick every year.  It’s also a fire hazard.

E.B. – I understand the cell phone charging is important too?

B.L. – Everyone has a cell phone.  Even the Massai – every Massai in the middle of Massai country where they rarely see outsiders has a cell phone.  We were in the middle of a Massai wedding and a dude’s cell phone went off <laughs>.

E.B. – How were the OIT students welcomed in Tanzania?

B.L. – Everyone went crazy really.  When they see us, they would get really excited and they always wanted to see what we were doing.  In the Massai country in particular, when we arrived, they had a dinner for us and they did a dance and song for us.  A lot of places would cook for us while we were doing the installs.

E.B. – Were there any rural residents that were familiar with the technology and engineering?

The top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

B.L. – No, not at all.  From my perspective it seemed that no one knew much about it.  Some of the instructors seemed like they knew at least what solar was and what they did, but that’s about it.

E.B. – Will maintenance and troubleshooting, if something goes wrong with the system in the future, be an issue when they have to deal with these systems on their own?

B.L. – Theoretically no because I believe its two years that we have the work guaranteed with the local shops that we went through (as far as the local parts and the labor with the Tanzanian electrician guilds).  They said for two years they would fix any problems.  So if that’s followed through with, then no.  But it’s Africa and you never know if they are willing to drive eight hours to fix something on their own dime.  It’s hard to say.

Brandon and his new friends.

E.B. – Do you think the education at OIT was beneficial to your Africa trip and do you think the Africa trip experience complimented your education at OIT?

B.L. – Most definitely; it was really just applying the knowledge that we’ve obtained.  It was real life problem solving and critical thinking.  It was like, ‘this is what they want, let’s figure out how to provide and install it and make it work for them’.

E.B. – Do you think you will go on another adventure or was this an exclusive excursion for you?

B.L. – I think I will definitely go on another trip.

E.B. – So would you recommend this to other OIT students or students from another school?

Brandon and John joining in with the Massai

B.L. – Indiyo.

E.B. – What?

B.L. – Indiyo, it means ‘yes’ in Swahili.

E.B. – Anything else you want to add?

B.L. – Alejandro.

For more information on Solar HOPE, visit


Posted by: seedfoundation | September 29, 2010

Perspectives from Africa

Ladies and gentleman this is the first in hopefully a series of OIT student interviews.  The first student is John Grieser, Oregon Tech scholar and apprentice engineer extraordinaire.  John recently returned from the small, quant little village known as AFRICA!!!  The following is his perspective on the first Solar HOPE  installation expedition in Tanzania.

John hanging out with the locals

E.B. – Hi John Grieser, how are you today?

J.G. – Fine, thank you for having me on the show today.

E.B. – You’re welcome.  So a group of students from Oregon Tech recently went to Tanzania and installed solar panels.  How many students went down total?

J.G. – Uhhhh… eleven and a half.

E.B. – So there was a midget?

J.G. – Yeah.  <laughter>  No, I think there was….myself, Brandon, Mike, Sean, Andrew, Dan, Leslie, Kelly, Jen, and…I think that’s it…nine.

E.B. – And you guys left August 20th?

J.G. – We left on August 15th.  We arrived in Dar Es Salaam on August 17th.

E.B. – Do you mind giving a brief rundown or summary of the entire trip and then we can go into more detail later?

J.G. – Sure, well it was a two part trip.  The first part being focused on the installs, the second half focused on….not really having a focus, I guess just doing the tourist part – doing the safaris, climbing Kilimanjaro, that took two weeks, the first part was three weeks.  We started in Dar Es Salaam which is the capital, it’s the largest city in Tanzania, it’s along the Indian Ocean.  And we did twelve installations in those three weeks mostly in the southern half of Tanzania anywhere from Dar [es Salaam] all the way up to the western border.  We did installations at schools, classrooms, dormitories, medical clinics, and a Massai village.

Nappy time

E.B. – Excellent.  So what were some of the things that really stood out about the local populations with regards to food, water, and especially energy?  What were some of things that really stood out that were maybe similar or different to what we have here in Portland?

J.G. – Well, starting off with energy since that was the reason we were there, most people don’t have access to electricity unless you’re in a city.  If you’re are in a bigger city like Dar Es Salaam or Aringa or Arusha, those big cities you probably have electricity, but once you get outside of the city, it doesn’t take far – 15 -20 miles outside the city center all the homes and all the villages start turning into the same brick building you see everywhere.  They make the bricks in the village, there is one person that does that, they take mud and they have this little wooden frame and they pack as much mud in that frame as they can and then they dry them out in the sun and they have bricks.  The older ones have a thatched roof, the newer ones have a tin roof.

You’ll see power lines running along the road but none of the lines go to homes or villages – they just can’t afford it.  Electricity rates are pretty comparable in price per kilowatt hour as they are here.  I think it was 160 shillings per kilowatt which is a little over 10 cents.  Electricity production is highly variable too, because it’s not as developed a system as ours.  You go to a lot of places and they have a voltage regulator because the voltage is supposed to be 220/240 coming out of the wall, but they get anything from 160 to 260 which can damage some devices.  So a lot of places have a T.V. that they run through a voltage regulator that can smooth out the power.  It’s something they haven’t completely figured out over there.

There are a lot of diesel generators.  Out in the villages there is just no way to get them power.  There might not even be power lines in the vicinity. Pretty much there only option is solar because they are on the equator and they get consistent sun all year and you don’t need to have the infrastructure for the installations.

E.B. – Why do you think solar energy is beneficial to these rural communities?

J.G. – The most important thing is that the one piece of technology that everyone has grasped is cell phones.  Almost everyone we met in Tanzania had a cell phone.

E.B. – Including the Massai?

J.G. – Including the Massai.  Not everyone in the village but a lot of elders and the ones who had jobs.  There were a few in each village who had a job because there were things they needed to buy in town like rice and clothing.  Everywhere we went in the country we had cell phone service, even if we were in a national park or up on top of a mountain – we had service.  It was better coverage then we have in the U.S.  The problem is they don’t have electricity so they can’t charge their cell phones.  They can’t access this communication technology.

What they would do is have one person that collects everyone’s cell phones in a big bag and hike 16 km in town and sit and charge the phones all day.  After the installations they were almost happier to see they had the ability to charge their cell phones than to have lights at night.  The cell phones are more important to them because the cell phones are their connection to the outside world.

E.B. – Did you also install or give them LED lamps and lights?

J.G. – Yeah, all lights in the installs were LED.  All of our installs were small.  We were actually surprised they were all one solar panel per install which was anywhere from 160 to 220 watt panel.  So we were thinking, “wait, that’s not going to give us very much power”. But then we looked at the lights, and they were anywhere from 2 – 9 watts.  That’s a tenth or less the power consumption of an incandescent bulb so that enables us to put up 10, 20, or even 30 light bulbs per installation and still only have one small panel.

Installed LED lights

E.B. – So did you guys effectively replace a lot of the kerosene lamps then, because that was one of the original goals right?

J.G. – Yeah, that was one of Slobodan’s primary concerns.  What they used for lighting previously was kerosene lamps which are a very dirty and dangerous fuel.  It’s dirty because they’re in closed spaces breathing the fumes and it’s a big health concern.

But, also there is a risk of fire with them.  One of Slobodan’s potential sites last year was turned down for installations by the solar organization he previously worked with.  The site was a student dormitory.   Later, a kerosene lamp fire burned it down, killing eleven young girls.  He left them to start Solar HOPE with the goal of preventing further tragedies.

E.B. – Are there plans to do a return trip to Tanzania sometime soon or perhaps next year around the same time?

J.G. – Yeah, there are plans to do at least two return trips in the next year; the summer trip like this year and possibly one over the winter break like late December or early January.  While we were out there, besides doing the solar installations, we gave a couple proposals for water pumping systems.

One village, of about 400 families, lives by a river.  They make 8-10 trips, per woman, per day, carrying 5 gallon buckets on their heads back to the village.  The biggest problem with the water is that crocodiles live in it.  A few times a year, one of the woman villagers gets snatched up by a crocodile.  What we want to do is give them a solar power water pump to bring water safely from the river uphill to the village.  It’s a totally doable project, there’s not much elevation gain so it wouldn’t require a big pump or a lot of power.  So that is a possibility for this winter trip.

E.B. – So do you think the experience down in Africa and your prior education at Oregon Tech has benefitted you with solar installs and the solar installs in Africa will benefit you as you finish your final year at Oregon Tech?

J.G. – Yeah absolutely.  One of things that originally sparked my interest in renewable energy was the ability to bring it to places that are off the grid whether it is by choice or in third world countries where it’s needed.  When we bring electricity to them, we are bringing communication, technology, wealth and knowledge.  Energy is knowledge and it brings access to so many things in the world.

E.B. – Did you feel safe in Tanzania?

J.G. – Yeah I felt safe.  The people were not threatening.  Not once did I fear for my safety.  I think they are generally good and honest people.

E.B. – What were some of the highlights of the trip?

J.G. – We did things that no one gets to do outside of Africa and we did things that everyone does in Africa.  Obviously it was spectacular on the safaris seeing the animals and it was unforgettable climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The climb was a physically and mentally demanding six days, but very rewarding.  The highlights of the trip for me were the solar installations and seeing how grateful and happy the people were in our technology and our ways.

Halfway up Mt. Kilimanjaro

After a handful of the installations the headmaster would gather all the kids [students], and they would organize in rows and sing their national anthem or sing their school song.  They would do dances too.  They had kids playing drums.  At one site, Jen, Kelly and I danced with some of the kids.  Dust filled the air and we couldn’t see.  It was pretty special.

At another site, when things slowed down during an installation, I wandered outside to mingle with the kids a little and before I knew it I was involved in a two hundred person soccer game.  They play soccer with this little ball that’s made of plastic bags wrapped up in shoe strings.  They had all the skills and knew all the tricks.  It was a lot of fun.

E.B. – What are some things that you would like to see done differently for the following trips?

J.G. – Almost every installation we did, we would go to the site in the morning, install throughout the day, finish by nighttime and then leave.  We would only interact with the locals in between our work throughout the day.  So it was difficult to develop a real relationship with the locals.

Also, there was a lot of downtime because we had to wait while the local electricians did the wiring for the lights.  I think next year, if we were to do it differently, we could have smaller teams based out of a central location in a city, and we could send two or three separate teams out, maybe no more than four: a local, a guide and the students.  If it takes two days, then fine.  We could stay overnight and develop a better relationship with the locals by staying with them.

E.B. – Overall would you recommend the Solar HOPE expeditions to other Oregon Tech students or other students in general?

J.G. – It was an unforgettable journey.  It was the greatest experience I’ve ever had.  I learned about other people and other cultures.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot about renewable energy and solar panel installs and hands on work.  I would absolutely recommend it to anybody, especially to others in the REE program because you have to take advantage of every opportunity you have to learn and help others.

Meeting the locals on a safari

For more information on Solar HOPE, visit


Posted by: seedfoundation | August 21, 2010

Solar HOPE and Tanzania

A problem exists in Tanzania, Africa.  Many Tanzanian children, especially those living in rural settings, live in dangerous environments, specifically related to their sources of energy and light.  Rural Tanzanian school children, in regions like Iringa and Tanga, use kerosene lamps and candles for lighting at night.  Typically, there are 5-10 lamps per dormitory.  Each dormitory houses somewhere between 50-100 students.  Since their homes are often many miles away, the children live at the school during the school year.  The daily use of kerosene lamps in tight quarters has been a serious hazard.  Many buildings have burned down and many school children have lost their lives from fires started by kerosene lamps.  Additionally, the lamps cause respiratory illness and health problems including, but not limited to, acute respiratory infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary [8].

Local Students Benefiting from Solar Energy

Kerosene lamps are also becoming more expensive as fossil fuels around the globe become scarcer.  Retail prices of kerosene in Tanzania increased four-fold from 1993-2003 [7]. Electricity in rural areas like Tanga and Iringa is unavailable.  Even if it was, electricity prices in Tanzania have increased 9 fold between 1990 and 2003 [7].

The First Installation in Progress

Substituting LED lamps for kerosene lamps solves these problems.  The lamps coupled with the solar panels offer rural school children cheap, efficient and safe energy for their education.  LED lamps are non-combustible, durable and affordable.

In 1998 alone, “there were 282,000 deaths from fire related burns worldwide and 96% of the fatalities were in developing countries” [6].  Fires in Tanzania caused by kerosene lamps are part of this statistic.   

On August 24, 2009 a rural school near Iringa was burned to the ground, killing 12 school girls [3].  The fire was caused be a candle.  In July of 2008 in Bukoba, Tanzania over 80 school boys narrowly escaped injury and death when a fire burned down one of the dormitories [4].  Mattresses, books and supplies were destroyed.  Again, in 2009, 15 school children were killed when a kerosene lamp caught fire and burned a dormitory to the ground [9].

Another reason for LED lamps is to reduce costs and increase quality of life for rural school children.  Kerosene prices in Tanzania have increased by a factor of four from 1993-2003 [7].

Supplying electricity to these rural schools is prohibitively expensive.  Electricity prices in Tanzania have increased 9 fold between 1990 and 2003 [7].  Solar installations are off-grid.

Oregon Tech Students Sizing a Solar Installation

The kerosene lamps have also caused respiratory problems for many years.  From the Energy and Sustainable Development in Tanzania report, “Indoor air pollution, for example, is the fourth leading cause of premature death in developing countries. Exposure to indoor air pollution i.e. particulate matter, along with carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene and other gases leads to serious illness, including acute respiratory infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pulmonary tuberculosis [8].”

The newly founded non-profit organization Solar HOPE, created in collaboration with Oregon Institute of Technology in Portland,  is beginning to solve some of these problems.  Solar HOPE’s primary goal “is to bring renewable energy solutions to the developing world. In order to accomplish this, our focus will be to organize and execute projects in areas of need by partnering with government and educational organizations in a given project area, and utilizing local organizations, institutions, and government agencies here in the United States [1].”

Nine OIT students and two faculty members have landed in Tanzania and are currently installing the first round of solar panels, converters and chargers.  The kerosene lamps and candles are being replaced with 8-12 LED rechargeable lamps depending on the size of the dormitory.   Additionally, 4-12 amp-hour batteries are being installed in each dormitory.  These batteries provide the means to store the solar energy for LED lamp charging.

Unloading at the Installation Site

By September 20th they plan on leaving the country having installed panels on five different schools.  In addition, before they depart, they will travel to Masai country, explore the local national parks and climb Mt. Kilmanjaro.  Solar HOPE will be planning and directing 2-3 more excursions after the initial trip concludes.  Additionally,  year around coordination will ensue with the Tanzanian rural community leaders to achieve the goal of installing 100 panels per year.

Since Solar HOPE is a non-profit volunteer organization, it is still in need of solar panels, batteries and other equipment.  The first project currently under way is fully supplied but subsequent excursions will need more resources and funds.  The ultimate goal is to have another 100 solar panels and 100 12 volt lead-acid batteries before June 2011.  These solar panels will be installed during the post summer excursions planned by Solar HOPE, and by the Tanzanians throughout the year.  In the summer of 2011 another trip is planned for August 15th.

"The Cohn" with a little Solar HOPE pride

For more information on funding or helping with future projects check out

– E.B.










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Posted by: seedfoundation | July 22, 2010

Get Outta Town

Even during the peaking sun of late June, the school entrance doors in Clackamas and Hilsboro have kept a’ rotating with dedicated students eager to knock out a few more credits.  They are an enduring bunch.  Still, patent law, electric power, programming and other summer offerings haven’t completely taken hold of the Portland Hustlin’ Owls.  The OIT REE students are doing their best this summer to pretend they still know what a break feels like.

Portland and the surroundings really come alive when the reliable precipitation falters for a few months.  Better to jump on the bandwagon and live it up, than solving matrices in a bathtub and waiting for the rain.  On the list this summer?  A few students have already made it to Multnomah Falls for some hiking and site seeing.  Golf has also been on the agenda.  What a great excuse to break some clubs and pretend you’re old : )

John, Adam and Brandon Messin' with Sasquatch.

During the fourth of July weekend, Brandon Little, Adam Henke, John Grieser and Nathan Crary drove to Olympic National Forest for some camping.  Even in the peak of summer, the forest stayed wet and rainy.  I suppose after living in Portland for a couple years, the rain slowly becomes a crack addiction, and when it’s gone, you gotta find it.  Besides the singin’ in the rain, the group stumbled upon the rarest of opportunities to mess with Sasquatch.  Before their encounter, the guys decided to hike in a couple of rockets.  Whaaaaat?  Rockets?  I don’t condone this behavior OK?  I’m just the messenger, I just tell the news.  Anyway, apparently they offered Mr. Sasquatch some beef jerky and then laughed and shot rockets at him.  Not recommended.  Unfortunately they weren’t able to take any photos, but they were extremely lucky to escape a primate beat-down of epic proportions.

The following weekend a group of REE students went to The Country Fair near Florence, OR.  The festival was filled with hippies, costumes, music, hippies, snakes, and guys in hockey goalie outfits.  Lining the booths were craftsmen of all kinds, mostly local produce, sustainable clothing, and friendly souls.  There was also a guy skinning a deer.  And it smelt.  Bad.

Crazy Costumes at The Country Fair

Other students have found time for Futsal, Ultimate Frisbee, bike riding, picnics and beer drinking.  With all the beer festivals going on in June, July and August in Portland, the last one’s a no-brainer.

In less than a month the busy summer quarter will be over and most of the Portland students will have six weeks off to sigh and wonder to themselves what convinced them to take a full load.  During this break, nine of the most dedicated will be in Tanzania installing solar panels onto rural African schools, remembering one of the reasons they started the program in the first place – to make a difference.


Posted by: seedfoundation | June 23, 2010

I Gotta Feva’, and the Only Prescription is More Vuvuzela!

For those of you holed up in North Korea, literally living in the dark, there happens to be a historic tournament underway on the continent of Africa.  Wait a tick, North Korea is in the tournament, so if you’re flipping burgers in Kim Jon Il’s backyard, you should damn well know about the World Cup!  Granted the North Korean team was impaled by Portugal in their last game, losing 7-0, but they scored one against Brazil to let the world know they’re for real and they too play the world’s greatest sport.

For those of you now reading with a nose-tickle of condescension and maybe a half-neuron denunciation like, “actually Mr. Writer, hockey/basketball/football/baseball/tennis/golf/ballet is the world’s greatest sport”, I remind you, with a slap on the wrist, you’re wrong (John Grieser and Jake Brulc in particular).  Soccer, as us yanks call it, football and futbol to most of the rest of the world, is the only sport that really matters.  So if you have yet to feel any World Cup passion and failed to enjoy the two absolutely heart pounding previous U.S.A games, you should probably turn in your citizen of Earth ID card at the nearest 7-11 and depart to another galaxy, (try Andromeda).

What the U.S. team lacks in skilled tacticians on the field, they make up for with sheer heart.  We should be proud of their grit and cohesion. They have yet to win a game, tying the first two matches, but chances are good against Algeria tomorrow.  A win should see the team into the knockout rounds.  Support the team and don’t forget to watch the game tomorrow!  At the very least you can pick up some soccer lingo, and in the case you ever meet a foreigner who doesn’t know English, you can have an unproductive and awkward two minute conversation.

Now to segue into renewable energy.  Dirrrrrrrr, I’m at a loss.  How bout’ this.  The World Cup is in Africa right now and nine OIT students and one teacher are departing for Tanzania in August to install solar panels for locals.  Although they will be a few thousand zebras away from the action and ohhhhh about a month late, the party should be lingering still, even in Dar es Salaam.

Since it’s inception by Dr. Petrovic last fall, the OIT Portland Tanzania excursion has become official and the plane tickets have been bought.  The students will install up to six different photovoltaic arrays with battery banks onto rural schools.  The local teachers will be given owner and maintenance manuals to keep the systems running.  The installed systems will mainly provide energy for computers, cellphone chargers and LED night lamps.  Currently, many Tanazanian students, students who live in dormitories at their school, use kerosene lamps to study at night.  The lamps cause respiratory problems and have more than once caught fire.  In rare instances, dormitories have burned to the ground and students have died.  LED lamps can prevent some of these tragedies.  In addition, computers and cellphones will raise their education and living standards.  Now that schools like MIT have been pioneering open source lectures, there is little reason a rural Tanzanian won’t be able to obtain a top tier education for free.

Aside from the hard work, and maybe a little post Cup celebration with the locals, the nine OIT students have also committed to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, exploring Serengeti National Park and living amongst the Masai people for a few days.  A couple of the Portland students have never been outside U.S. soil so the after-trip stories will probably be told with a couple more exclamation points.

The World Cup 2010 is still burning bright, hundreds of millions tuning in each day to relish the drama.  What a wonderful way to bring the world together, even for a brief time.  The OIT Portland students will be touching ground in Tanzania in its wake, but they will bring their adventurous spirits for a worthy purpose and a another way to bring people together.  Though they will be welcomed by Tanzania for their cause, they shouldn’t have any trouble making a good first impression either, after the one the U.S. national team has already made on the world’s stage.


Posted by: seedfoundation | May 28, 2010

Pole Pedal Paddle 2010

The culmination of athletic prowess acquired from months of lecture, labs and homework was on full display at this year’s Pole Pedal Paddle.  The athletic specimens, I mean students, who drove to Bend for the event, showed the world exactly why they are often compared to other famous athletes including, but not limited to, Tiger Woods, Lebron James, Roger Federer, and Didier Drogba, (soccer player, c’mon the World Cup starts in a couple weeks – get with it!).

Ben Kester runs for Muscle Milk.

As an unbiased observer I would say Kelly Shuman and Ben Kester both ran the final sprint at an average 4.1 sec. 40 meter pace.  They were, of course, weighted down with backpacks full of rocks.  And I’m pretty sure Adam Henske left a turbulent wake behind his paddle boat, (water skiing anyone?).  Nicole Clock finished strong on the 25 mile bike leg, at least three hours ahead of the next person, (Lance Armstrong maybe?).  On the cross country leg, Ryan Ness made snow look like polished ice by speed skating to the finish line leaving the rest to wonder why they haven’t quit their day jobs to start drinking heavily.  John Belanger, OIT’s very own crazy person, decided he wanted to do the event solo.  Yessir, a downhill, five miles of cross-country skiing, 25 miles of biking, a five mile run, a two mile boat race and a final sprint; which he ran at the same pace a gazelle runs from a cheetah.

Kelly Shuman and Adam Henske figuring out gravity and friction.

One team did particularly well.  Sean Laraway, Ryan Ness, John Grieser, Josh Anderson, James Scoggins and Brandon Little each took a leg of the relay race and finished third in their age group.  Not too shabby considering the team’s collective physical inactivity coaxed by the demanding daily/nightly school workload.  Of course, if Jake Brulc graced the team with his presence, they would have broken the world record, (although he would have needed to wear his G.I. Jimma-Jammas for optimum speed.)

Nicole Clock channeling Plato, Nathan Crary channeling Aristotle.

In all, OIT Portland had a strong showing at the event with four different groups participating and over 15 students camping in Bend for the weekend.  Following the event, the second night of camping was a celebratory carnival complete with floats, costumes and human pyramids.  It’s amazing how much fun you can have without alcohol!  By Sunday, no one left without their lunch, either from running too hard without the lungs, or from drinking too hard without the liver.  So in that respect, it was a success.

John Belanger, OIT's very own crazy person.

From it’s humble beginnings last year, (I think there was six of us), OIT’s PPP representation more than doubled this year.  The representation factor was scaled even higher after the students put on their REE shirts, (designed by Nate Oester).  Looking like a team rather than a bunch of confused hippies lends the school more credence ya see.

It’s always nice to have a reprieve, even for just a weekend, but finals await and the books are back out again. Buena suerte.

2010 PPP participants and friends.


Posted by: seedfoundation | May 10, 2010

T-Shirt Design Winner

The first annual (maybe) OIT Renewable Energy Engineering muy importante and global impacting T-shirt design competition has come to a close.  The winner was decided by yours truly using the tried and true tactics of despotism.  Democracy, if you hadn’t heard, is sooooooooo faux pas these days.

One might think, ‘ wait a tick, I thought one of the basic constructs of renewable energy was the implementation of diversified and integrated energy systems, systems that are shared democratically and provide energy for humankind equally?  And I thought all the REE students, representing this energy paradigm shift, would incorporate those values in their everyday life too?’   Nope, sorry.  At least not the second part.

The Pole Pedal Paddle event in Bend, OR is coming up next weekend and the REE OIT students are preparing to repri’ zent sum sheee.  The REE team needs a T-shirt ASAP.  Thus, the best design was chosen for the PPP via iron fist.  A democratic vote would have taken at least four years and probably a dozen recounts and recalls considering all the Republicans at OIT, (namely Jake Brulc).

So in the spirit of despotism and the upcoming PPP, I present to you the 2010 T-shirt design winner.  Nice work Nate Oester.


Posted by: seedfoundation | April 28, 2010

Vegas Baby!!

Do you remember all that big talk coming from Washington, you know, the stuff about solving the nation’s energy problems and allocating money to upgrade the transmission infrastructure because it’s over 40,000 years old?  Yeah, me too.  And I also remember getting excited for about a nanosecond until I realized that even seemingly visionary and clever politicians tend to blow burning tax dollar smoke up our crevasses.

Well, I stand down, and corrected.  My lingering cynicism for national politics has taken a trip to Jamaica to BLAZE DA FIRE! for a weekend.  Why ask you?  Because OIT just hit the jackpot.  That’s right, the Department of Energy, under the guidance of Steven Chu, recently awarded OIT a $ 2.5 million grant.  Much of it will go to OIT Portland to hire on more faculty members, upgrade equipment and develop the senior level power systems sequence.  The power systems sequence will include classes like power system modeling and analysis, distributed power systems, power conditioning, and utility-focused energy storage.

We can all thank Dr. Bass and his grant writing skills.

Besides the blah blah educational stuff, OIT Portland is also getting important things like a pimped out Caddy with dubs, a dozen pit bulls and a smorgasbord of other student accessories.  Some of these include grills, gold Hennessy cups, canes, pimp hats, and snakeskin shoes.  For myself, I’ve already pre-ordered a snow leopard fur coat to elevate my crunkness.

Word to incoming students: If all this sounds a little too ill and maybe not quite square enough for your taste, don’t worry there will still be old circuit boards to dig up in the school dumpster.

What I’m really trying to say is VEGAS BABY!!

Sorry….let me start again.  As fun as it would be to blow a bunch of money on roulette and blackjack with two rum and cokes in hand, the long-term benefit and payout would probably look a lot like the recent housing boom and bust.

A lot of engineering is about cost-benefit analysis and pay off periods.  It’s refreshing to see that kind of understanding in The White House.  The investment into OIT and other institutions relating to energy and infrastructure represent a cultural shift away from high risk, short term payouts, and toward a long term, durable future.  The growth in energy consumption in the U.S. and worldwide will not wane anytime soon.  It’s accelerating too.  Thus, it’s imperative that money is put back into national energy production and distribution.

As the REE program continues to grow and crank out the next generation of energy engineers and other related positions, the long term benefit of the DOE’s investment will materialize.  OIT Portland is lucky to play a role and be part of developing a sustainable future.  I’ll raise my pimp cup to that.


Posted by: seedfoundation | April 5, 2010

T-Shirt Competition

Mike Cohn and Nathan Crary, both students at OIT in the REE program, have initiated a T-Shirt design competition for the students. The winner will have their design printed on shirts available for purchase order before the senior project symposium. Below is the original message sent out to all OIT REE students. Other OIT students and prospective students are also encouraged to submit designs. Below is the original e-mail sent to the REE student body.

Hey everyone!

We are having a T-shirt design competition for all of OIT PDX’s student body. If your design is picked, it will be debuted at the this years Senior Symposium.

You have till May 1st to submit your designs. You can have up to 4 colors and all designs must be original and include REE or OIT somewhere on the shirt. Remember the theme is “Think outside the barrel,” but the words don’t need to be included in the design.

All submissions should be in .pdf format and can be sent to me ( or Nathan Crary (
and if you have any questions, feel free to ask one of us.

Click here for the official poster.

Good luck!

-E.B. and JMC

Posted by: seedfoundation | March 30, 2010


Oregon Tech has officially gone into business. Yes, that’s right, the student body has put down the books and picked up the hammer and sickle. Why study when work sets you free? Wait…I think I read that somewhere in Poland.

While the part about books being put down is a bit of a tall tale, students have been busy putting their knowledge to real world use. Many projects are currently underway or have recently finished at the end of winter quarter. The Oregon Tech REE commitment to hands-on practicality combined with mind-numbing theory has manifested into a series of interesting projects as of late.

Biofuels was one of the REE elective classes offered in winter. Students taking the class were required to produce a biofuel of their choice, and by quarter’s end, present the results to their classmates. Some groups chose ethanol distilled from vegetables or grains; others chose to produce bio-diesel from simple reactants like algae. The projects were all a success and the students learned a great deal about the fundamental types of biofuels and production processes.

Andrew Larson and Mike Pacella stirring up their witches brew.

Bryan Oakland testing the ph of an algae solution.

Parker Scoggins either staring at the wall, or constructing a device for his biofuels project.

Solar energy was another renewable power source that received much attention. As part of an optional single credit class, Matt Arneson and John Grieser worked together installing the first photovoltaic array on the OIT East campus roof. As of this writing, they have installed the pv rails completely and should have the pv panels installed by the end of spring quarter. Another solar energy side project involves one of OIT’s solar water heaters. At the end of winter quarter, Daniel Hoff welded a support frame to one of the larger water heaters to give the structure a supporting weight and better solar absorption angle. Both of these projects, and others to come down the road, will decrease the carbon footprint of OIT, decrease the energy bill, and showcase the practical and important knowledge offered in the OIT REE program.

Matt Arneson sleeping while standing - he supposed to be installing rails.

Daniel Hoff working on cold fusion. That's not true, he's welding a frame for a solar water heater.

Jake Brulc watching The Office with two headphones hanging from one ear...I dunno either.

Other projects were tackled in the Batteries class. Four groups developed a different emergency battery powered device for the class project. There was a Nickel Cadmium powered ultraviolet light water purifier. Another project used Lead acid batteries to power a series of LED and CFL lights. An emergency pack, powered by Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, was developed by another group. The pack included a mini water filter, LED light strings, and a portable device charger. The fourth group constructed a Lithium-ion powered portable power strip designed for multiple cell phone charging. All projects were a success and received full points. With proper funding, these prototypes could be further designed and scaled up to create real world rapid response emergency packs for disaster scenarios.

The portable battery powered charging device designed in the winter Batteries class.

The charger has six receptacles and one USB port. Future designs will likely have more USB ports because all phone chargers will be required to use USB ports by 2012.

OIT LLC has officially gone into business. With the teachers providing the educational resources, the students have been busy putting their new found knowledge and skills to the task. Stay tuned for more to come.


Posted by: seedfoundation | March 8, 2010

Sample Essay

Here is sample of what to expect from History of Energy, a required class of the REE program…

Midterm Essay Question: Historians point to two major transformations in the way humans live: The Agricultural Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Both were associated with major changes in the patterns of energy use. In your essay, outline the key changes in energy use during both revolutions, and compare and contrast their impact on both human society and the environment. Be sure to use specific examples from the readings to support your arguments.

Submission: Score – 100 (out of 100)

A revolution is the fundamental reorganization of an existing paradigm or the establishment of a completely new one. Revolutions can take different forms but are most commonly associated with major transformations in social psychology or social patterns. Many revolutions have occurred since the dawn of man, but historians often underline two, the Agriculture Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, as being essential for understanding the current patterns of humanity.

With the Agriculture Revolution, plants and animals were domesticated, resulting in population growth, stable food supplies and specialization of occupations. From the Industrial Revolution came new modes of transportation, new levels of integration and population explosion. Both changes were dramatic and relatively fast. However, they differ qualitatively. Whereas the Agriculture Revolution was a collective realization on the nature of food production, the Industrial Revolution was ignited with the discovery of ancient fuel potential. A closer examination illustrates both the similarities and this important qualitative difference.

Following the discovery of fire, the early human population flourished and expanded across the globe. The hunter-gatherer methods combined with cooking offered populations more digestible calories, safer food and ultimately more leisure time for cultural development and procreation. However, groups were still restrained by the forces of nature and the movements of animal herds. Feast and famine was still the norm. The variety of nutrients and calories were great when times were plentiful, but when the options were limited, populations would suffer. Consequently, this system of environmental interaction created a natural population ceiling.

Consequently, this new social vantage, initiated from fire control and cooking, promoted the growth of tribes and bands into larger communities. With larger groups came more ideas. Eventually, agriculture developed. It is considered to have happened first in the Fertile Crescent, or modern day Iraq, around 10,000 BCE. While the ancient techniques of cultivation spread out from this primary source, it is believed the understanding of cultivation and domestication developed independently in other parts of the world. The methods of agriculture radically changed social customs and ancient human patterns. One of the effects was a population explosion. A primary reason for this was because populations were more immune to famine than hunter-gatherer societies. Alfred Crosby, author of Children of the Sun writes, “By 4000 BP almost every crop plant and animal essential to civilization today – wheat, rice, barley, potatoes, dogs, horses, cattle, sheep and chickens – was domesticated.”[1, pg 27]. The extensive domestication of these crops and species provided societies a buffer against extreme conditions.

In addition, the energy necessary for survival and burned by human muscles, (Crosby’s “prime movers”), was diverted partially to animals. Furthermore, Agriculture streamlined the human calorie supply. Using animals for physical demanding work, and streamlining food production provided societies with a net gain in energy. With more calories came more time for procreation and more time for leisure. Hence, societies grew and diversified. Crosby elaborates, “By 4000 BP in several parts of the world dense populations of farmers supported city dwellers, hierarchies of specialists with skills like writing, and elites in government, war, religion and manufacturing. With that, Homo sapiens nominated itself as the possible keystone species of the planet.”[1, pg 27].

Fundamental changes in social patterns affect all sectors of a society. Whereas certain benefits are acquired through periods of revolution, negative side-effects are also produced. As civilization centered on a more homogenous diet, made available through an understanding of agriculture, diseases, some related to nutrition deficiency, and others related to increased human and animal interaction, became rampant. Crosby writes, “Hunter-gatherer diets had been varied and richly nourishing – when available. The diets of farmers…consisted of cereal grains and roots, with meat or fish only now and then. These diets were much less nourishing, and brought on dental decay, anemia, and other maladies of malnutrition. Added to these disadvantages were the infectious diseases-smallpox, measles, dysentery, cholera-that sedentary life, dense population concentrations, and constant sharing of parasites and germs with dogs, horses, cattle, and pigs encouraged.”[1, pg 40]. To summarize, population increased and societies diversified. But it was a trade-off. The understanding of disease and health was still in its infancy and therefore the technologies to combat the new afflictions were absent.

Relative to any major changes that happened before, The Agriculture Revolution happened very fast. Prior, the discovery of fire may have occurred over 100,000 years ago. The Agriculture Revolution began roughly 10,000 BCE; by 4000 BCE all major species of plants and animals were domesticated. Compared to the more recent Industrial Revolution, however, The Agriculture Revolution came at a crawl. This is illustrated by the major qualitative difference between these revolutions. To understand this difference, The Industrial Revolution needs to be examined in this context.

The birthplace of The Industrial Revolution is commonly attributed to Great Britain. Great Britain was in a unique position during the 17th and 18th centuries. The country was sitting on an abundance of coal and the price of wood was climbing. In fact, from 1500 to 1630, the price of firewood rose 700 percent [1 pg. 69], putting pressure on coal mining. Coal slowly became the dominant fuel source for Great Britain. As mines became more extensive and coal deposits harder to obtain, new machines were invented to the streamline the process. Thomas Newcomen of Great Britain invented the first coal powered steam engine built primarily to pump water out of coal mines. The effectiveness and utility of the design sparked innovation and imitation for centuries, eventually spawning the diesel engine and the internal combustion engine (ICE).

In tandem with the development of the ICE and the diesel engine was the increased exploitation of another fossil fuel – oil. First pumped out of the ground in the U.S. after American George Bissell used his insight to apply a traditional salt boring technique to its extraction, oil was initially valued for one of its many derivatives. Originally distilled by Canadian chemist Abraham Gesner in 1853, kerosene quickly replaced declining sperm whale oil, (due to over-whaling), as the dominant lighting fuel. Later, gasoline, another derivative of oil, and unrefined oil were both utilized extensively with internal combustion and diesel engines, respectively.

The introduction of fossil fuels like kerosene, for twenty four hour lighting, and the utilization of oil products for rubber, lubricants and mass transportation changed everything. Oil businesses formed, like John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, which became a multinational, integrated company and the archetype corporation. As World War I ensued, many new weapons and mobile machines based on oil were invented. Tanks were designed in World War I and were instrumental in breaking the German line at the Battle of Amiens and assisting the Allies toward victory. Cars, trucks, and railways were further developed and used extensively by both the Allies and Central powers. Airplanes, powered by oil, were refined and produced in great quantities. They were strategically invaluable for both sides. Diesel powered submarines, developed by Germany were used effectively to ambush supply and oil tankers in route to Great Britain.

In WWII oil played an even more central role. The Nazi war machine was supplied with fossil fuel by nationalized company I.G. Farben. I.G. Farben produced synthetic fuels from its massive endemic coal supplies. By 1940, the synthetic fuels plants provided 46 percent Germany’s total oil supply. Foreign oil acquisition was a primary goal for both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in their quest for dominance. In parallel, the U.S. supply of oil to the Allied forces was instrumental in keeping the pressure on Germany and Japan in the sky, on the ground and on the water. Ultimately, it played a vital role in victory.

Similar to The Agriculture Revolution, The Industrial Revolution fundamentally transformed social patterns. Twenty four hour lighting had never been experienced before. The birth of fossil fuel powered transport gave people unprecedented mobility in the air, on the sea and across the land. Wars were fought on scales never before seen, and death tolls reached horrific levels. In total, causalities in WWII are estimated at around 60 million, even higher than the 37 million causalities from WWI.

However, in contrast, The Agriculture Revolution developed over thousands of years whereas The Industrial Revolution transformed societies in a couple hundred. The difference was in the energy source. All energy, used by human muscles and those of animals, before and after the Agriculture Revolution, was derived from biomass. So, from one aspect of the definition of revolution, it was then, a fundamental reorganization of an existing paradigm.

The Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, is defined by the other aspect. It was the establishment of a new one (paradigm). The primary source of fuel moved from biomass to fossil fuels. Activities normally reserved for human and animal muscles, muscles powered by biomass, were given to machines like trucks, cars and trains that burned fossil fuels. Other abilities, not intrinsic to humans, like flying and underwater traveling, were made possible with fossil-fuel-burning planes and submarines. Both of these revolutions transformed society and both are fundamental in understanding the modern patterns and psychology of humanity.

Works Cited

1. Crosby, Alfred. Children of the Sun : Norton, 2006.

2. Yergin, Daniel. The Prize : Free Pres


Posted by: seedfoundation | January 21, 2010

Expanding the Scope

In light of the recent Haitian earthquake that mangled the country and left millions (still) in desperate circumstances and the sluggish crisis response that ensued, OIT’s Dr. Petrovic has proposed an OIT emergency rapid response organization. The proposal is in its infancy and has yet to be formally presented to the education governing bodies of Oregon. If launched, it would trail any immediate need in Haiti, but the organization would provide REE students with valuable training, offer senior project options, and help post-disaster communities around the world.

To initiate the first phase of development, Dr. Petrovic assigned his Batteries class the task of designing a suitable battery pack for a specific appliance(s) essential in a disaster scenario. The class was divided into groups of three to four with each deciding on a different application. One group chose to size a battery pack for a water purification system, another for a water pump and another group focused on providing enough off-grid power for a seven outlet power strip. The power strip would be used for charging cell phones, one device that has proven its importance through disaster recovery.

What kind of issues must be considered when sizing a battery pack?

Size, weight, cost, toxicity, durability, accessibility, voltage, amp-hours and other factors are all important aspects to consider. Hence, different types of batteries should be used, depending on the application. If the device under consideration is portable and must remain mobile, like a telemedicine pack, for example, lead acid batteries are a bad choice because of their size and weight. Also, many batteries are quite expensive, so using a more costly type like lithium ion may not be the best choice if the telemedicine packs are pushing the budget. Nickel Cadmium might be considered because of the smaller size compared to lead acid and lower price than lithium ion. On the other hand, powering a stationary water pump in a rural environment wouldn’t need a small or energy dense battery pack. In this case, larger and cheaper batteries like lead acid would suffice.

These types of problems are the first of hopefully many more be to be solved in route to developing rapid response emergency packs at OIT. With the proper funding, REE students will be able to continue their diverse engineering education while helping others around the world when disaster strikes. In addition to developing emergency packs, students could also gain the opportunity for emergency response training and rapid deployment to disaster sites. OIT Portland is fortunate for acquiring a creative and contemporary instructor like Dr. Petrovic who is dedicated to bringing important, practical applications to traditional engineering theory.


Posted by: seedfoundation | January 6, 2010

Digesting the Holidays

The holiday break has flickered out like a bunch of Chinese manufactured Christmas lights. Already the halls of OIT Portland are saturated with overfed, hungover students whining about course loads and class schedules. The winter quarter has begun, but the lingering effects of Peppermint Snapps, peanut brittle and other caloric decadence persist. Lucky for us sentient beings, we have ways to manage this. A few extra pounds and a little indigestion is fixed easily enough. A couple of Tums, a couple of crunches and maybe some breakdancing classes (ask Mike Pacella about that one), and we’re back to 10-year high school reunion weight.

Mike Pacella

Unfortunately, the holidays aren’t only about you or me, (I mean they should be because Santa thinks each one of us is the most specialist person in the whole wide world). Beyond our fun couple weeks of consumptive narcissism and faux compassion for the poor, collectively we produce some garbage and collectively it adds up. As nice as it would be to throw a couple of Tums onto a pile of refuse and then do some break dancing, it pretty much stays there unchanged, (well, maybe if someone throws a Tums onto something acidic in a landfill it will be neutralized). Also, unless the trash is burned, it is buried. It is later covered then more is dumped on top until layers and layers of shit accumulate. This rate of shit accumulation probably increases during the holiday season.

Our bodies know what do with organic calorie accumulation. We have numerous ways of using and storing calories and expelling what we don’t need. On the other hand letting our collective “calories” accumulate in landfills leaves them unused. Much of the functional and usable goods sit idle for decades. Different companies have been taking advantage of some of these resources with composting.

Barr-Tech LLC is one of these companies. It is building a 4 and a half acre composting site in Fishtrap, WA that could be ingesting 75,000 tons of municipal, commercial and farm waste. The waste will mostly come from within a 100 mile radius, in particular Spokane. A biodigester will be used for high energy wastes like fats and foods with other waste being converted to usable compost. The company plans on producing fertilizer, chemicals for the petroleum industry and electricity from two methane burning generators. The methane will come from the biodigester and could produce enough energy for 1000 homes. Blue Marble Energy, based in Seattle, will co-lease with Barr-Tech. They plan on producing high-value cosmetics, paints and plastics from organic waste. Within a couple of years, together they plan on employing 70 people, many of which will be well paid engineer and chemists positions.

This kind of news, although a little dry, (or should I say, moist? har har har), is inspiring. Making use of the perceived useless is a good way to move forward into the next decade. Composting isn’t a novel technology, although Barr-Tech LLC will be a state of the art facility, but it plays a role in the development of a cradle to cradle culture. The next step may be extensive landfill mining for usable resources. The large scale cost-benefit for such an endeavor is probably entirely cost right now. However as certain resources become more scarce, and the technology becomes cheap and good enough to start digging into all the accumulated shit, a cradle to cradle culture can be fully realized. Maybe then we will have an even better reason to breakdance.

Article link –


Posted by: seedfoundation | December 18, 2009

Debauchery Time

To the dismay of many overachieving OIT students, the fall quarter has officially come to a close. Grades were published earlier this week, summarizing with complete accuracy in the form of almighty letters, exactly how much we learned in each class. All the stress suffered, all the mental fortitude required, all the sleepless nights endured and then boom! Over. Done. ‘Here are a couple of letters from the beginning of the alphabet, now go eat tree-shaped sugar cookies and drink Tanquerey for a couple of weeks.’

Of course we all have our own unique way of celebrating the famed Yuletide. Some may enjoy bathing in a kiddy pool of eggnog, some in an Olympic pool of stock options, while others may fester at the mall, buying up everything credit card possible. For the relatively more sane of us, friends and family ought to do. The excessive nature of the holiday season is unavoidable however, thus spending and shopping are beasts we all must wrestle with. On that note, all I can say is this: know where the products are being made. Who is benefiting? What is the environmental impact? What is the political impact, if any? I’ll stop there to abstain from any preaching, but it’s always good to be mindful.

One accessory that deserves closer attention and remains within the scope of “energy savings” are the fashionable LED Christmas lights. My roommates were so kind to purchase both the traditional incandescent Christmas lights, and the newer LED Christmas lights. The LED’s use 8 watts per line compared to 30 watts per line of the incandescent. The LED’s were brighter too, and in my opinion looked much better.

LED Lights

If lights are on your list, shop around and keep LED’s in mind.

Incandescent Lights

In conclusion, a few things learned from fall quarter 2009:

– The teachers are un-apologizing sadists and do their best to keep it a secret until the last two weeks of the quarter.
– The new sophomore class is full of smart people.
– If you have the swine flu, just stay home and drink a lot of water, (avoid tile).
– If you have a disagreement with a lab partner, don’t talk it out, just throw down.
– If you’re like Jake Brulc and would rather go fishing than study, don’t expect any handouts, otherwise your name is Coattails.
– If you play video games all the time like Jake Brulc, then we should hang out.
– If you ever have a debate with Bob, don’t pretend like you know what you’re talking about because he knows you don’t.
– If Mateo lectures too fast for you, it means you have a slow slew rate.
– The east campus needs a food vendor.
– The east campus needs a lot of things.
– Working together, although difficult, because it requires the minimum amount of social skills, is the path of least resistance.
– Not enough students bring in bulk food.
– Procrastination builds character.
– If you can’t come up with a witty comeback, resort to four letter words, and say them with authority. You win.
– The REE program is the cat’s pajamas.

Happy Holidays


Posted by: seedfoundation | November 25, 2009

The 350 Experience in Retrospect

For those of you out there that helped out with the 350 movement in Portland last month, three cheers for you!

The Fuz on 350 day

The weather for our bike riding pilgrimage was appropriately divine and lighted the way into pioneer square for the music portion of the event. As we entered, traditional drums from east Asia pulsated around the square from a corner stage. After, a healthy gathering of the Portland multi-cultural enthusiastically cheered as October 24th was officially announced a new Portland holiday.

Pioneer Square

In hindsight, did the event accomplish much? Was there a greater purpose to joining a random biking group on Saturday morning to parade into downtown Portland to meet up with a bunch of greenies? Will the day of October 24th brand into the collective mind of the citizens and contribute to a healthy renovation? Hard to say. But, what happened on the 24th was an interesting exercise in mass mobilization toward a cause. The 350 movement is an internet promoted event that began this year. I have no idea what the final turn-out was across the globe, but groups successful formed from Mexico City to Cairo, Egypt to Sydney, Australia.

Can you see Paul and John from OIT out there?

The ability for the internet to be used as a tool for inspiration and mobilization is something to be duly noted. As social networking continues to diversify, expand and become richer in our lives, the impact of socially conscious mobilization may become more prolific. As the tipping points of different global fronts approach us, these events could have butterfly effects and profound significance. Powerful and sudden changes could spurn from such congregations.


[I apologize for the writing hiatus, {just recovered from injury}, outsourcing the writing responsibility was the idea but the classmates were all too busy studying like they should have been. Forgiveness is pending.]

Posted by: seedfoundation | October 14, 2009

Looking Ahead in the Clouds

Not really looking ahead, more like looking back.

Technology moves so fast these days it seems the minute anything novel enters the noosphere that allows us to take a quantum step in our evolution instantly becomes an 8-track. I recently bought an iPod nano to finally upgrade grandpa Nate into the 21st century only to realize by the time the Jonas Brothers come out of the closet (any second now), the next generation of teeny boppers will be “tweeting” about how big of loser I am for owning such an ancient relic.


Wind energy technology is no different from portable music players with respect to it’s depreciation in novelty. But with age comes wisdom, or so I’m told by the wise, so at times we must be wise and look back in order to understand the future, teeny bopper judgments notwithstanding. Tomorrow’s progress stands on past laurels, so to have a new perspective on where the wind may be blowing sometime soon, let us look back for a moment at a couple of recent news stories.

FloDesign of Wilbraham, MA has designed turbines based on the same principles as jet engines. In an article that came out last December in MIT’s Technology Review, they claim their design could cut the cost of producing electricity from wind turbines in half, partly because of the turbines’ ability to surpass the Betz efficiency limit of 59.3%. The turbines are much smaller than the ones currently spinning in the Columbia gorge in route to Portland, and thus can be built closer together to yield higher energy per acre of land. A working prototype is due by late this year or early 2010 with larger turbines and commercial development to follow. Keep your eyes open for news updates and check out the video.

Another interesting wind turbine idea from months past is the Maglev Wind Turbine, a vertical design that rests on powerful permanent magnets; the company claims will reduce operating cost by 50% compared with the industry average. Theoretically, the design could be scaled up to produce over a gW of power per turbine, enough to supply energy to over 750,000 homes. A production plant to produce the components for smaller scale turbines in the range of 400 to 5,000 watts is being built in China. To see a conceptual video follow this link.

Finally, a company named Broadstar Wind Systems has developed a novel design that has the appearance of a water wheel.


In a past article from Energy Daily, the company claims to have developed the first turbine to break the $1 per watt barrier with a $250,000, 250 kW design. Broadstar claims they will have a unique advantage in the market because there are very few 100 to 500 kW designs. By integrating smaller turbines into commercial buildings and avoiding the transmission line problem faced by larger, rural wind turbines, Broadstar could become competitive.

To see a video check it out!

The news releases on these turbine designs are months old, or in teeny bopper time, biblical. Does that mean they shouldn’t be “tweeted” about? Of course not, remember with age comes wisdom. In order to be in tune with the next quantum step in the wind energy field, we must look back at past designs, understand them, and keep our eyes open for new updates. The industry is changing fast. Thus, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, lest we become obsolete like the 8-track.


Posted by: seedfoundation | October 7, 2009

Join the Movement!

How can I get involved in the political aspects of this green revolution going on?

There seems to be little a single, common person can do when the political system is so large. There is a guy out there trying to change this thought pattern. Bill McKibben is a well known environmentalist and author who recently appeared on the Daily Show to promote his new movement,

The idea of 350 is to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to under 350 parts per million (ppm). The current levels are somewhere between 380 and 420 ppm (depending on who’s measuring it), so we have already passed that 350 mark. The latest number from is 389.


Here is the mission statement right from the website:
“Our focus is on the number 350–as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. But 350 is more than a number–it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.
To tackle climate change we need to move quickly, and we need to act in unison—and 2009 will be an absolutely crucial year. This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn’t meet the severity of the climate crisis—it doesn’t pass the 350 test.

In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the 350 goal, we’re harnessing the power of the internet to coordinate a planetary day of action on October 24, 2009. We hope to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world – from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community – and clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.

If an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to the latest climate science, we can start the global transformation we so desperately need.
Getting everyone on board, doing anything they can in their daily lives, even minor things, will have a great affects as to cutting carbon in the atmosphere. People need to never quit improving on these actions; constant improvement no matter how small is going to be the key to tackling a problem as large as this one.”

To get everyone involved, is having a day of action on Oct. 24. There are many plans to join in on spelling out 350 with kayaks on the Willamette downtown. There will be 75 kayaks available for anyone’s use. There is also a group of bikers leaving Col. Summer’s at noon to clog up the Hawthorne Bridge on their way to Pioneer Courthouse Square. Events like this are planned all around the world in tons of cities.
Here is the link for the PDX activities.

The main goal of this day of action is to support keeping the 350 ppm goal in the treaty that is going to be drafted in Copenhagen this December. It is in the drafts, but there is a risk of them picking a higher number and that is a scary thought. Let’s keep it to 350 and let everyone know that you want it too by joining us at Pioneer Square between 1 and 3 on the 24th!


Posted by: seedfoundation | October 5, 2009

Bac too Skhool two Lurn Stuffh

Well hello, welcome to OIT. Or, welcome back to OIT. The fall quarter has commenced and the mad rush to soak up decay rate graphs and number systems has begun. For the newcomers and your assumed trepidation as to why you chose the REE program after an intimidating first week I say to you this………<long silence…….crickets………record skips……..cowboy at bar giving me the dead eye>. Soooo I don’t really know what to say. It will take a couple of weeks to get into the swing but we all came here to learn and work hard so OMG bring it on FS fur serious!

The best part about OIT is teaching others what you've learned!

The best part about OIT is teaching others what you've learned!

In regards to the student blog be sure to get involved and send submissions especially in light of our east coast competition. Yes, it’s true MIT, the OIT of the east as I like to say, had an article recently in the New York Times boasting about their little bloggers, (thank you for the link Jared). One would think that with all the cybernetic, biomechanical, neural implanted students running around MIT, they would be able to conjure up an original idea, but NOOO let’s just copy OIT and then contact our rich daddys working for The New York Times and have them write all about us. Apparently, the students are being paid as well, albeit not very much, but J.C., east coast 3rd generation inheritance not enough for you? I smell rally in the back alley. Yes, MIT has officially started a fight. Vayanse cabrones! Or better yet, walk-off, Zoolander style. I gots my blue steel down yo.

Wow Nate, a little bitter? Sorry you aren’t a human calculator and your grades weren’t up to par to gain admission to MIT. There is help. Try Ritalin.

Y'all better watch out, P Daddy is back in action.

Y'all better watch out, P Daddy is back in action.

In all fur seriousness, it’s great to see students getting involved in colleges around the U.S. including MIT. We all have something to learn from eachother, let us branch out in our own unique way and connect with our peers and community!

In closing, good luck this quarter Oregon Techies. Before we know it it will be Christmas and we all love Christmas because you can drink a lot and not feel like a douche. Also, make sure to check out the tutoring schedule if any assistance is in order. Buena suerte!


Posted by: seedfoundation | September 25, 2009

Solar Competition Getting….Hmmmm Saucy

In any emerging, unpredictable market there are always early developers eager to establish themselves as the next McDonald’s or Microsoft. Look at the boom. We had a plethora of search engines all with the promise of optimizing your inquiry. Catchy ads guaranteed to streamline your search came out of the cyber works; “Search with, all you need to do is press a key, and we will find your destination!!!”, or “use as your search engine, we’ll f*@kin read your mind!!!!!”, or my favorite, “Try for your searches, all you have to do is exist and we will take care of your life for you!!!!”. Well, none of these search engines actually existed as far as I know, but the contrived hyperbole illustrates my point. There is always a shotgun blast of rice paper companies hoping to hit a goose. Most of them end up as pellets lodged in an old, dry stump somewhere in South Dakota, but the lucky few get to eat roasted bird.

The budding solar industry is no exception. Many solar companies have already come and gone, and others are struggling to stay afloat in the hemorrhaging economy now afflicting us. I’m sure the reasons are as diverse as anything business, ranging from poor management, high production costs, shit technology, underfunding, or just plain victims of the bad economy. On the flip-side, the current climate may be ripe for acquisitions, and Google-scale-type industry establishment. “Some may rise and some may fall, but black people will never know themselves until their backs against the wall.” Sorry, reggae lyrics, losing focus. Haahmmm.

Today there are some standouts in the solar industry including First Solar, to my knowledge, the cheapest per watt producer, Suntech based in China, SolarWorld, a German company with a manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, SunPower based in California and I’m sure many others I don’t care to research on right now. A couple more may be added to the list soon.

Nanosolar, another thin film company like First Solar (although using CIGS technology rather than First Solar’s CdTe), recently began operation of a fully automated production facility near Berlin, Germany. The plant has the potential to produce over 600 MW of panels a year, although right now it produces about 1 MW a month because of the current economic conditions.

Holy Robots!!

Holy Robots!!

Martin Roscheisen, Nanosolar’s CEO, says their product will be competitive with other companies because the panels will be cheaper to produce and have a greater efficiency over other thin film technologies, namely First Solar. In sunny locations, power plants using Nanosolar panels could produce electricity for five to six cents per kilowatt hour, nearing the cost of coal plant electricity.

Another sunny splash in the industry sees the arrival of the China-based firm Centron. They recently leased a 25,000 square foot warehouse to store solar panels shipped directly from China. Ocean Yuan, the president of Centron, believes they can undercut existing PV prices with their unique business model. The panels will be manufactured by a group of companies based in China and later sold and distributed under the U.S. brand Centron. Yuan’s goal is to sell the panels at $1 per watt within a few years, which would allow them to be directly competitive with coal power.

There are many questions surrounding these new ventures like whether Nanosolar can undercut existing solar companies to be competitive and whether Centron, although potentially extremely cheap, can out-compete established, reliable companies like SolarWorld who already have a name for quality.

It is unlikely that all of the current solar energy companies, even some of the big ones mentioned above will exist in five years time. In the end, as in so many things, money will decide the outcome of the happy little dogfight brewing in the back alley. There will be other factors that play a role, but the first company to produce a reliable, large-scale product that’s as cheap as coal produced energy and without government subsidies will surely be eating goose for dinner.


Posted by: seedfoundation | September 1, 2009

Automated Inventing

There may be a time in the distant or not too distant future, when career inventors have serious trouble finding work. In parallel, patent attorneys may find their own expertise obsolete. Of course this possibility will more likely be avoided since the growth of automated inventing will be gradual, and thus these desirable careers will have time to evolve, but surely as computation becomes increasingly powerful, the entire dynamic of this field will change.

According to Robert Plotkin, invention is premised on the idea that is difficult and time consuming, and thus inventors need a financial incentive to create and also need protection for their hard earned intellectually property. Patent attorneys serve this need. However, computer processers are beginning to find a niche in the inventing field. There are different programming techniques for computers to allow them to “create” or “invent” solutions to problems; right now the most promising may be something known as evolutionary programming. This type of programming uses biological algorithms taken from nature to “evolve” a system through generations, eventually optimizing a solution to a particular problem. The physical parameters for the system must be programmed and the most promising solutions from each generation are joined or “mated” with other possible outcomes. The process can be repeated thousands or millions of times over a short period with supercomputers. Problems that used to take a team of engineers or an inventor weeks or months may take a computer a few days.

A recent example of this type of application comes from NASA. In creating an antenna for a satellite, NASA wanted a design that was within a certain size, weight and ability to operate at a specific frequency. After automating the process with a computer using genetic algorithms, they came upon a design that fit the application perfectly. It’s appearance resembles an unwound paper clip, bent in random directions. After analysis of the antenna, the scientists at NASA couldn’t figure out why it worked.


This is a telling scenario. Computers are beginning to do higher level things that we aren’t able to do. In the past, computers have executed more mundane tasked like calculations and organizing files , things we can do but have outsourced to free us up to do more meaningful things. With computers beginning to invent, the technical process of heavy math and trial and error are taken over by the machine. Of course, strong mathematical skills are still needed to program the assignment and read the outcomes, but more of the mundane aspects of inventing are left for the computer. This has the benefit of allowing the engineer or scientist more time to be creative with new problems rather than spending time with design.

On the flip side, the very idea of inventing becomes compromised. Right now, automated inventing in the industry is rather on the fringes, needing powerful computers and expert programming skills. However, as computers become more powerful and cheaper, and inventing programs become more common place, automated invention could begin to spread amongst many, if not most industries. Legal and ethical questions could arise. If inventing is no longer difficult and no longer requires much time, then should inventors have patent protection? Or should the programmers and idea people have another form of protection, albeit to a lesser degree? If some of the programs become so common place, and anyone can download them from the internet, input an idea, and kick out a new invention, then who has the incentive and the protection?

It is possible in the distant or not so distant future, that inventors and patent attorneys find their respective niches compromised because of computers. They should have ample time to evolve and find a new way to serve this field. Either way, if automated inventing becomes common place, it is sure to change the world.


*This blog was inspired by Robert Plotkin’s research and expertise on evolutionary algorithms and patent law.


Posted by: seedfoundation | August 27, 2009

OIT Outdoor Club 2009

We could squeeze out every last ounce of sanity locked within our craniums holed up in hobbit caves reading circuit analysis books for the remainder of the summer. In preparation for the coming guaranteed shit show of a fall quarter at OIT, this option might not be a bad one. Haaahmmmmmmmm…I think I just blacked out. Sorry, let me rephrase; actually that option sucks. Many of us have recently finished our first year at OIT, also known as “cannon fodder on your face” engineering (I just made that up and of course I mean in the best possible way), and many of us are feeling the hangover of four consecutive quarters of integrals, circuits, decay rates and my very favorite, dynamo flux generation – (still trying to hash that one out).

So rather than allow our brains to further dissolve into the black hole of despair, a few of us decided to embark on the greatest journey in the history of all journeys. That’s right, we went on a road trip to Redwood National Park in northern California.

Jacob Brulc, Nathan Crary, John Grieser and Andrea Mcbeth chillin' with big daddy red.

Jacob Brulc, Nathan Crary, John Grieser and Andrea Mcbeth chillin' with big daddy red.

Jacob Brulc and I departed from Portland on a lovely sunny day to meet with John and Andrea near Crescent City California, a sprite little coastal town just north of the park. John and Andrea had already been exploring southern Oregon for a few days, including Crater Lake National Park. The first night the four of us camped south of Crescent City on a comfy overhang looking out to sea. The daytime mist managed to part with the night so we had a panoramic view of The Milky Way galaxy above.

The next day we drove to the park entrance and began a 6 mile hike through the heart of the redwoods. The redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet and quite massive as well. Not quite as massive as another California tree, the sequoia, but hot damn they were impressive. A few were definitely over 300 feet and I read the tallest grow to over 400. The oldest are over 2000 years old. Yes, that means when we had a little baby Jesus, we had a little baby redwood just taking root – pretty cool. The majority are in the 200 to 500 year range and still quite lovely to gaze upon. One thing that struck me during the hike; the whole enviroment reminded me of Return of the Jedi when those dudes are cruising through the forest with the Ewoks on little hover scooters. Funny, after I mentioned that while hiking, John informed me that those scenes were filmed in the redwoods.

We made it to the coast within a couple of hours and set up camp in the sand somewhere between two man-made campgrounds. Within a half hour a six point elk came creeping up on us. It approached within 75 yards. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t trying to get impaled by a large beast of a herbivore so I used my flight instincts to hide behind a tree stump.

The following day we hiked out. John and Andrea met up with some rafters and Jake and I went to Sixies River in southern Oregon for some old timer gold panning yeeeeehawwwww! Apparently we went at the end of the season when the river is mined out, so after four hours of half-ass gold panning over two days we both struck it rich with a couple of sand-grain sized gold flakes. I’m thinking they amounted to about 10 cents worth of gold, but considering the miniscule size of our find, it really illustrates how valuable those shiny boogers are.

Afteword, Jake and I camped a few more places farther north until I dropped him off in Winston, OR so he could head home to Medford to see friends and family. For my part, I cruised up the Oregon coastal byway for the remainder of the day, burning through my classical and reggae CD collection. I stopped two times for some fresh seafood and also payed a visit to the Newport aquarium. Overall, a great way to celebrate the end of the first full year at OIT.

Lincoln City

Lincoln City

Some of you may be asking, what does this have to do with renewable energy or energy conservation? I mean Nate you were driving your little fossil fuel burning Honda, for your own self-serving interests, all over god damn Oregon you god damn hypocrite. But you see, in the redwoods I was exhaling, giving the trees much needed CO2. This allowed them to grow stronger and sequester more carbon. Hee hee. The trade-off is exact I swear. (Don’t worry ideals are still present, just waiting like a tiger to attack at the right moment).

In conclusion, prospective OIT students, this is the outdoor club. John Grieser is the go-to man if anyone has any questions about outdoor trips. He is usually going on one every weekend. Seriously. Every weekend. It’s a wonderful way to meet fellow students and develop the camaraderie necessary to build the OIT name and find success in the program.

OIT (kind of)

OIT (kind of)

See you all this fall and don’t spend too much time this summer in hobbit caves reading up on circuit analysis.


Posted by: seedfoundation | August 12, 2009

Sup cuz, you got the green dawg?

Green this, green that, sustainable this, renewable that. What does it all mean? Who am I? What decade is it?

I’m not going to pry into the last two questions because the explanation may get a bit muddled, but the first one should be tackled. Everyone is talking about the coming green revolution but it seems that everyone has a different idea about what it means. For some I think it’s just fun and trendy to find some kind of way to participate, even superficially. As Paris Hilton would say, “that’s hot.”

It’s true that we all live in our own reality tunnels so it’s only natural that each and everyone of us would have our own interpretation of what “green” means. And maybe that’s the point. We each have our own, personal thing to contribute to the revolution, however small. Rooted in this abstract word is a foundation of a new way of looking at things – a reorientation if you will. The idea, I believe echoes sentiments of the ancients, the mystics and the natives. Things like, “the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth”, quoted by chief Seattle or “Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children”, an ancient Native American proverb. For some, these kinds of sayings may sound like some hokey bullshit, but I think they are pretty relevant.


We are beginning to see the limitations of our current expansionist economic model. The U.S. has long had a system based on infinite economic growth – the problem of course are the limitations of certain natural resources. The pressure lately has been mounting up. As the population continues to grow and overtax water, energy and food resources the limitations are becoming apparent.

No need to panic though. Of course there are skeptics out there. Hell, some of my engineering friends think it’s too late already. They think the damage done is too great and irreversible and it’s best to accept it. I don’t like that attitude. If someone really believes that then why not just become a hedonist or a nihilist? That seems like an appropriate solution to a such a conviction, (it’s also strange to me that they are engineers). For my part, I like to view things in terms of probabilities. Yes, there is a chance that we are all ‘effed’ and it’s too late – cue dark music, fire and brimstone, Apocalypse, Armageddon etc. I think the probability for that kind of scenario is pretty small.

On the flip side, the chance of thwarting some of the negative developments is good. How about another saying? Necessity is the mother of invention. I like that one. Under the right conditions change accelerates. I think they call that a revolution. Which brings me back to the point. What does a green revolution entail?

It’s impossible so say exactly how it will all pan out. But it is the idea of cradle to cradle life cycles for everything. It means living within our life time scales. Burning energy sources like fossil fuels that took millions of years to form cannot possibly replenish within our life spans. Our world is built on depleting energy sources. Thus, we need to utilize sources that we can replenish on a human life scale. Solar, wind and likely geothermal energy are perfect examples. The production of solar modules and wind turbines currently use a lot of non-renewable energy, but this is the first great stepping stone into a cradle to cradle life cycle for energy. Wind turbines and solar modules pay back the initial production energy in a few years and then begin to offer essentially free energy, albeit a little maintenance energy. Once a large enough foundation is laid, excess free energy from these sources can be used for the development of new energy sources. The ultimate goal of course is zero net carbon. Creating a complete infrastructure that does not release global warming gases is fundamental.

An energy cradle to cradle cycle is the only choice. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of time. So how does each one of us, living in our own reality tunnel, become of a part of this energy paradigm shift? Being a part can be as simple as using public transportation more, buying locally or voting for the right candidates. There are other routes too: engineering, law, businesses or volunteer work in other countries to help develop simple renewable energy solutions. In other words it’s easy – just put on your own green bandanna and start freestylin’ to the beat of the next movement.


Posted by: seedfoundation | August 10, 2009

Portland Charges Forward

For those of you still in the dark, as I was as recently as maybe a week ago, the State of Oregon has decided to become intimately involved with an electric car future. Governor Kulongoski and the state of Oregon are working alongside Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi and possibly other car companies like Think and Toyota to bring 100% percent electric cars to the State. In tandem, PGE, (Portland General Electric), has been developing a charging station network in Salem and the Portland metropolitan area to service this ‘first of it’s kind’ market. This push is part of a greater $1 billion plus investment by the state of Oregon to improve public transportation, increase renewable energy and renovate existing roads.LEAF_RHD_W_FRQ_090718__mid

Above is the Nissan Leaf, 100% percent electric vehicle with an expected range of around 100 miles. Charge time with an average 220 volt line, (the same as a household dryer), is around 8 hours. The pricing is expected to be around $30,000 after a tax rebate of $7500. Nissan may offer a leasing option for the expensive lithium-ion battery packs to make the cars more affordable for consumers. Car maintenance should be substantially lower for the Leaf since there are less moving parts. This, combined with the much lower re-fueling cost will allow the Nissan Leaf to become cheaper than a similar gasoline powered car within 5 to 15 years, depending on the price of gasoline. 5 years if one assumes $4 dollars a gallon and up to 15 if one assumes $2 dollars a gallon. If gasoline goes above $4 dollars a gallon, electric vehicles like the Leaf become a no-brainer. Of course these are only rough estimates and many others factors should be considered, but it appears that the dawn of the electric vehicle is upon us. This is especially true considering battery technology is still rather underdeveloped. New ceramic-based battery designs may offer the best qualities of ultra-capacitors, namely high speed charging and discharging, with the energy density of modern batteries, allowing electric vehicles a greater comparative advantage.


Posted by: seedfoundation | August 4, 2009

How Bad is Global Warming?

The answer to that question is not an easy one, but lately it is becoming more cut and dry (no pun intended).  Interest in global warming may have peaked with the release of “An Inconvenient Truth” starring Mr. Gore, but the impact of increasing global warming emissions are far from it.

Scientist studying CO2 deposits in ancient Antartic ice samples have noticed an alarming trend.  The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere right now is higher than at any point in the last 650,000 years, even when considering the peak levels of the natural glaciation cycles.

An article was recently published by Sharon Begley, Newsweek’s science editor.  She discusses the most recent developments concerning climate change.  Exerts from the article include new estimates on the melting of Greenland.  Although the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, estimated rising sea levels from Greenland melt to be somewhere around 16 inches this century, recent satellite data suggest rising sea levels will be closer to 39 inches, (that’s one meter).   This estimate itself may be shortchanging considering the feedback loops of melting and heating may behave more like exponential functions rather than linear progressions.

In addition, estimates of the amount of CO2 locked in the permafrost around the world are now higher than first thought.  According to Edward Schuur of the University of Florida, the amount is around 1.6 trillion tons of CO2, or three times the amount originally accepted by the science community.  1.6 trillion tons is about twice the amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere.  Schuur estimates about 1 to 2 billion tons of CO2 can be released into the atmosphere per year.  This is 3 to 6 times the amount coming from U.S. cars and light trucks every year.

A positive feedback loop has already begun, creating a cycle of melting, increased solar absorption and increased CO2 and methane gas release from the permafrost.  Exacerbating these cycles is the synthesis of huge amounts of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels locked in the Earth for millions of years.  If we are to curb these exponential feedback loops, the consortium of leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December better come up with some favorable politics, otherwise I’m moving to the shores of Greenland where it’s sure to be ever more pleasant.


Posted by: seedfoundation | August 4, 2009

Scholarship Essay Contest

The following essay was written by Nathan Crary for an online scholarship essay contest.  The views are his and his alone.  Also,  feel free to comment, disagree or laugh hysterically.

Question #2 Calls for Change

After an election filled with calls for change, what changes are most important for America to undergo, and what steps must be taken to make these changes?

Right now, change in America is not a choice, but an imperative.  America needs to dramatically change its energy policies to avoid the worst effects of the impending energy crisis.  An overhaul of energy policies would simultaneously create millions of new jobs, prevent geo-political conflicts, curb global warming and species extinction, and allow for economic growth to continue unabated.  To begin this transformation, a substantial investment by federal, state and local governments into the development of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies is mandatory.

The oil industry and its subsequent infrastructure have spread across the nation.   The country is deeply ingrained in oil, particularly for transportation use.  Although the ultimate purposes of the Iraq War are still a matter of debate, it is clear that oil security had a part in it.  The Middle East has the largest percentage of known oil reserves by region and the U.S. is the largest consumer of gasoline.  Energy conflicts like the Iraq War are not isolated incidences, and more conflicts will arise as energy resources become increasingly sparse.  Shifting over to a renewable energy economy would not only eliminate the temptation for the nation to seize energy resources from other countries, but also decrease the amount of capitol flowing out the country and create millions of new jobs.

To progress toward a sustainable economy, local, state and federal governments need to work in tandem to create an environment for renewable energy development.  Standard tax incentives and tax credits set by the federal government need to be offered for all businesses and consumers to integrate and develop renewable energy solutions.  In addition, local and state governments need to offer further tax benefits for installing energy efficient technologies into homes and businesses.  Businesses and consumers are hesitant to spend money during the current economic recession, thus it is imperative that the government takes steps to initiate this change.

In addition to tax incentives, a substantial upgrading of the power transmission infrastructure is essential.  Diminishing investment and deregulation over the years have led to an inefficient patchwork of transmission lines.  The power lost due to inefficiencies cost billions of dollars a year.  Through a concerted investment by both federal and state governments, the necessary improvements can be made.  In addition to freeing up energy from transmission congestion, new transmission lines will give the necessary backbone for large scale wind and solar energy production.

Furthermore, the U.S. needs to begin a gradual and permanent shift toward a completely electric transportation system.  Public transportation offerings like light rail and high speed trains need to be greatly expanded.  Raising taxes may be the principle way to pay for this kind of development.  This is a major issue of discontent for consumers and businesses right now; however, the long term monetary pay-off will more than compensate for the initial investment in the form of increased business efficiency, reduced oil consumption and reduced global warming affects.

In addition to the expansion of an electric train system, the federal government needs to use its new found partial control over car companies like GM and Chrysler to pressure them toward producing electric vehicles.  A mandatory production phasing out of gasoline powered vehicles by 2020 needs to be adopted.  Additionally, the government should initiate a bill similar to Eisenhower’s Highway Act of 1956 to completely renovate existing highways and freeways to offer electric car high speed charging. Electromagnetic induction transformers can be built under the roads and connected to local power lines allowing cars to be charged quickly and at high speeds.  The technology for most of this is already here, the main hurdle being the slow charge rates of current batteries.  These temporary hurdles are being tackled in laboratories, and for this reason the federal government needs to allocate more funds for research and development into electric vehicles and its related technology.

Surely, it is a time of change.  The country is filled with conflicting trends, some at odds with a sustainable future and some very much in parallel.  Americans cannot afford to wait out the recession.  An energy crisis is manifesting and if dramatic action is not taken, the recession of today will seem like a time of prosperity.  It’s not too late.  The technology is ready for a nation wide revolution. Through local, state and federal tax incentives combined with large investments into the areas of domestic renewable energy production, the U.S. can complete this transformation.  In parallel, the transmission grid needs to be optimized and opened up for wind and solar energy, electric cars and trains need to be developed, and the transportation infrastructure needs to be renovated for electric vehicle charging.  Only through a concentrated and integrated approach of this magnitude will the country be able to abandon the negative developments undermining the continued prosperity of its people.

Posted by: seedfoundation | July 29, 2009


The SEA blog has been launched by a group of Renewable Energy Engineering students at OIT in Portland.  We come from far and wide with very diverse backgrounds yet we all share common goals and similar ideals.  During our time at OIT we will continually update the SEA blog with new information regarding sustainable energy and technological progress going on globally, locally and at OIT.

In addition we will offer videos and articles showcasing some of the wonderful senior projects going on in our labs.  The blogs are sure to be as diverse and interesting as the students currently enrolled.  Once again welcome, and remember, it’s not about you or me, it’s about we.