June 18, 2018, BY Matt Hughes

Dikendra Karki works on a solar panel
Electrical engineering major Dikendra Karki ’21 learns how to build a photovoltaic system during the Institute for Leadership in Sustainable Technology. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

Students in Bucknell's Institute for Leadership in Sustainable Technology (ILST) took sustainability into their own hands as they installed a temporary photovoltaic (PV) array on campus in May.

"We're learning how to set up PV systems and find the optimal place to install them," said Abbie Winter '19, an environmental science and biology major from Easton, Conn. "It was cool to do that in real life, because we're working for a real client — a real person who is interested in having one of these systems in place. We're all getting a real feel for what consulting looks like in the renewable energy field."

During the monthlong immersive learning experience, students from across Bucknell's three colleges act as consultants for companies and organizations seeking to improve their "triple bottom line" of financial, social and environmental sustainability. While studying topics in sustainability including smart energy grids, recycling and waste reduction, sustainable agriculture, and corporate social responsibility under professors Neil Boyd, management, and Peter Jansson, electrical & computer engineering, the students gained on-the-job experience with real-world clients. This summer they advised Lakin Tire East, a major tire recycling business based in West Haven, Conn., and worked with several stakeholders in Mount Carmel, Pa., where Bucknell has been involved in a number of community-revitalization initiatives. || Read more about Bucknell's work in the coal region.

"I really liked the experience at Lakin Tire," said Michael Chen '20, a managing for sustainability major from Arcadia, Calif. "We're like 19, 20, 21 years old, so it was incredible that the president of a company would dedicate an entire day to immersing us in the business."

Professor Peter Jansson, electrical & computer engineering, teaches students how to install and make the most of photovoltaic systems. Photo by Emily Paine, Division of Communications

Beyond the professional experience they gained in working with their real-world clients, the ILST students said they've also learned from one another, making the program's interdisciplinary focus is one of its greatest strengths.

"As an engineer, I'm used to studying technical information and explaining things to other engineers," said Max Skirpan ’20, a mechanical engineering major from Wexford, Pa. "It's a lot more challenging to explain things to others with different backgrounds, but it's a skill that will help me in the real world."

"We're bringing together all three of Bucknell's colleges, and that's such an asset to this program," added Winter. "If you go into consulting, you'll be interacting with people with strong management backgrounds and really technical skills, so working in real time with these different minds is so important."

ILST takes place each year from mid-May to mid-June at Bucknell.