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Seven Ohio colleges and universities were able to share $150,000 in educational grant money given by Dominion.
Among the seven winners were higher educational facilities such as Kent State University at Stark, Cleveland State University and the University of Akron. Out of the seven schools that received grant money, four of them were engineering grants with one technical, one environmental and one energy-related grant.
“It depends on what’s going on in the colleges and what they’re seeking to do,” said Sharon Seaton, senior community affairs representative for Dominion. “This year we happen to have a majority of engineering where I know a few years ago we had a lot of craft categories because of the welding situation and all the developments in southern Ohio.”
According to its website, Dominion grants up to $50,000 in grant money toward proposals that benefit areas such: as business practices; trades such as welding or construction; engineering; environmental sciences; energy-related subjects such as alternative energy of conservation and technical subjects, such as information systems and electronics.
Seaton, who is on the committee that selects Dominion Higher Educational grant winners, said some of the winners are determined based on what the committee would “prefer or like to see happen in a college or university” setting so they can support those programs, but they also measure to see if some projects are financially feasible.
“There are a lot of things we consider when we’re reading all of them and judging,” she said. “We try to funnel the dollars we give to higher education through the higher educational grant programs.”
The grant is available in Washington, D.C,. as well as the states of Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
The Wired Wetland
Kent State University at Stark received a Dominion grant of $25,000 to benefit its pond and wetland research area which, according to its website, was established as an EPA-approved wetland research area in 2007.
Greg Smith, an assistant professor of biological sciences, said the area is used to research water quality, hydrology, understanding water tables and issues involving water quality. He said it serves as a “control site for water quality” and a “standard” to be compared with other water sites to measure potential impacts.
He said Kent State University at Stark received this grant through the outreach component of the wetland program, where local schools other than Kent State can use the real-time data given by the wetland equipment to apply to predictions about events such as the impact of heavy rain on various measures of water quality.
“This is not a project that’s going toward developing new technologies for the oil and gas industry,” he said. “It is a project that’s going toward training students who may — and some almost certainly will — be working in the oil and gas fields.”
Smith said the grant money will be going toward sustainability in the program, such as keeping up with the maintenance of its equipment. He said there is a hope to reach out to more schools, preferably high schools and some middle schools.
“The part we hope will grow is that part where we’re connecting to local schools and getting middle and high school students involved in the project as well as our own university students,” he said.
Chemical Reactors for Research
The chemical engineering program at Cleveland State University received a $15,000 grant to purchase a reactor experimental service unit for its undergraduate programs.
Dr. Joanne Belovich, a professor and chair of the Department for Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, said the reactors will be used for instructional labs, where undergraduate students can learn about chemical reaction processes.
“Using this service unit plus the reactor, which we purchased separately, the students can do all sorts of chemical reactions,” she said. “[They can] measure rates of mixing and test out feedback control systems on the reactors.”
In the case of oil and gas, she said it would teach students how fracking works. She said some of the graduates in the program have moved on to working in the oil and gas industries or worked as chemical producers.
“Chemical engineering is one of the professions used in the petrochemical industry,” she said. “In any process that uses crude oil or natural gas or natural gas liquids, the conversion of those raw materials into useful products probably involves some chemical engineering processes along the way.”
Belovich said the service units act as frameworks for a chemical reactor. The service unit has the ability to pump fluids in and out of the reactor to help stimulate chemical reactions. They also feature temperature control modules and the “ability to program control loops in a service unit,” as well as a “data acquisition system.”
The department owns six reactor service units, which can be analyzed by a class of up to 18 students.
She said her department was able to make “a compelling case because our enrollment has increased almost fourfold in the past seven or eight years.”
“Knowing the oil and gas industry does have need for chemical engineers, that’s who we’re educating,” she said. “More people to go out into the workforce in that field.”
Drones for Surveying and Mapping
The University of Akron received a Dominion grant worth $30,000 to support the school’s surveying and mapping program.
Gary Schuller, professor and program director of the surveying and mapping program, said the grant went toward modernizing the program, which used traditional methods to obtain information on the land.
“Anything that has geospatial orientation, location, coordinates, layout or plans [are what] we’re using in some manner. Oil and gas certainly have a lot of geospatial needs,” he said. “[This involves] mapping of the oil and gas pipelines and deposits and laying out the utilities when they’re being constructed.”
Schuller said the University of Akron hosts the only program that accredits bachelor degrees in professional surveying. He said his program helps “prepare our surveyors with the technical, legal and academic knowledge they need to work in that profession.”
One of the ways Schuller said he wants to “modernize our curriculum” is through the use of unmanned aerial systems, or drones. He said these drones can be used to help survey an area and take “hundreds of images” from the air to create a 3D model to determine the contours and other features of an area.
“It’s a way to collect a lot of geospatial data in a hurry and to cover more ground efficiently in a more complete and robust way,” he said.
Due to FAA regulations involving drones, he said one of the challenges that will come with the program will be to have aspiring surveyors pass an aeronautical knowledge test. This will involve demonstrating knowledge in reading aeronautical charts, airspace communications and a respect to the regulations in place.