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UC Merced Students Headed to Denmark to Study Wind Power

July 18, 2008

MERCED - Engineering and business students from the University
of California, Merced, have found a unique, interdisciplinary
opportunity to study the implementation of alternative energy in
Denmark through the first-ever LoCal RE Summer School program
organized by UC Merced, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and Roskilde
University in Denmark.

Six UC Merced students are participating in the 20-student
program. Uday Bali, Heather Poiry, Kevin Balkoski and Rich Inman
will represent UC Merced from the School of Engineering. Kevin Rico
and Sam Fong are attending as management majors from the School of
Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. (UC Merced’s School of
Management is in the planning stages).

They’ll be learning about wind power in Lolland, a community
that has become a world leader in developing and implementing wind
energy. Next year, Danish students will visit California to learn
about solar energy.

Before it implemented alternative energy on a large scale
beginning in the late 1980s, Denmark had the second-highest
per-capita carbon emissions in the world. The United States, then
as now, occupied the top spot.

“We anticipate learning in ways we couldn’t begin to learn
inside a classroom,” Poiry said, “Especially about social
adaptation to changes in energy systems. Lifestyle changes are
difficult to initiate, and it will be interesting to see how they
handle that.”

The fact that UC Merced is so well represented in spite of
larger candidate pools from other participating institutions speaks
to the cohesiveness and achievement brought about by personal
mentoring. These UC Merced students have developed close
relationships with one of the world’s leading energy researchers,
Professor Roland Winston, jointly appointed in UC Merced’s schools
of Natural Sciences and Engineering.

“He really makes room for us, always asking how he can help,”
said Rico.

All six participants have been involved in Winston’s courses and
research since they came to UC Merced. Balkoski and Bali
transferred in at the opening of the university in 2005; both have
now graduated and plan to pursue graduate degrees at UC Merced with
Winston as their advisor. The remaining members of the group are
still pursuing their bachelor’s degrees. All agree that the LocalRE
program is a unique opportunity.

“I am extremely proud of this first group of UC Merced energy
students,” said Roland Winston. “I expect them to become leaders in
the new field of renewable energy.”

“Because this is the first time this program is happening, we
have the chance to help mold a good program,” said Bali. “That’s
what we’ve prepared for since we came to UC Merced, as we helped
start the campus.” Bali is the immediate past president of the
Associated Students of UC Merced, the campus’ student government.

The students have also all participated in service learning
projects through the Foster Family Center for Engineering Service
Learning - A National Epics Site, a requirement for engineering
majors at UC Merced.

“I strongly believe our work in Denmark will help put UC Merced
on the map,” Poiry said. “That’s what we were made for - all the
work we have done in research, working with real money in service
learning, learning about real projects and money and even the cost
of mistakes.”

Their experiences also leave them well prepared for
entrepreneurship - and the group is already exploring the idea of a
startup solar energy company. Using their business and engineering
expertise in synchronicity with current global concerns about
financial and environmental costs of fossil fuels, they may be
poised for immediate success.

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