June 27, 2023
Since 2018, ORISE has hosted scholarship competitions twice a year for all undergraduates as a way to increase awareness about ORISE programs among young college students. The competitions achieve this increased visibility by asking the undergrads to research and create a product on a topic that is of special interest to DOE.
The idea for the 2023 spring scholarship competition, which closed on April 30, came about in an unusual yet creative manner by which ORISE was able to strengthen its partnership with DOE’s Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO).
“We have been administering ORISE fellowships for SETO since 2015,” said ORISE Associate Manager Rachel Hill. “But earlier this year, I was approached by one of our fellows with an idea for a scholarship competition specific to SETO’s mission of accelerating the advancement and deployment of solar technology.”
Funding from across SETO supports everything from technical advancement to market preparedness to using solar energy as a tool for energy justice. Translating the funding efforts across SETO, and the potential for solar technology, is vital to the office’s mission.
Ben Burch, an ORISE fellow in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Science, Technology and Policy Program, had the idea to link SETO’s mission to an art movement called Solarpunk which visualizes the successful progression of technology alongside the environment.
“Think optimism around the climate crisis—communal societies, green architecture, rooftop gardens, geothermal heating, technologies that SETO funding is hoping to support.” said Burch. “Basically any idea that supports sustainable, long-term design while combining aesthetic beauty with ecological awareness.”
Undergraduates applying for the spring scholarship competition were asked to create a Solarpunk art piece that communicates the potential of the technologies funded by SETO: photovoltaics, solar-thermal power, systems integration, manufacturing/competitiveness, soft costs, solar workforce development, and equitable access to solar energy.
ORISE Associate Manager for STEM Workforce Development Jennifer Tyrell and her team are responsible for creating the two undergraduate scholarship competitions each year. Tyrell noted that SETO and her team had the chance to collaborate for this specific competition.
“SETO was so supportive throughout the whole process,” said Tyrell. “We partnered with Ben to develop the task for the scholarship and the scoring rubric which evaluated entries based on supporting research, ability to communicate the technology’s potential, creativity, technical ability, accessibility, and overall presentation.”
When the application period closed on April 30, subject matter experts from SETO scored the 27 entries and helped determine the winner of the scholarships. Luke Halladay from Western Michigan University was awarded the first-place prize of a $5,000 scholarship. His entry, titled Passacaglia in C Minor was an instrumental piece inspired by Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. Second place, a $3,000 scholarship, was awarded to Liam Landon from the University of California Berkeley for his artistic rendering of what a cityscape might look like by 2050 based on the solar technologies funded in part by SETO. The third-place prize of a $1,000 scholarship was awarded to Hugh Peng at Cornell University for his video titled Landfill Solar: The Future We See.
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) asset that is dedicated to enabling critical scientific, research, and health initiatives of the department and its laboratory system by providing world class expertise in STEM workforce development, scientific and technical reviews, and the evaluation of radiation exposure and environmental contamination.
ORISE is managed by ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, for DOE’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.osti.gov.