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Environmentalist Ed Nixon, Gov. Bob McDonnell to Speak at Engineering Unplugged Conference April 13

Ed Nixon, environmentalist and brother of the late Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States, will be the headline speaker at the second annual Engineering Unplugged conference, Tuesday, April 13, at Old Dominion University.

Nixon, a former naval officer and pilot, and a long-time alternative-energy proponent, will speak at the luncheon for Engineering Unplugged, the pre-eminent conference dedicated to environmental engineering concepts, held at the Ted Constant Convocation Center.

Gov. Bob McDonnell will address his energy plan for the Commonwealth at 3 p.m. The Governor signed legislation on March 10 that aligns with his goal of positioning Virginia as the "Energy Capital of the East Coast." This could make Virginia the first state on the East Coast to explore for oil and gas offshore.

ODU President John R. Broderick will open the conference at 8 a.m.

The conference's keynote speaker, Nixon worked in mineral extraction around the world for years. After the inauguration of his brother a second time in 1973, he became increasingly concerned about the United States' diminishing reserves of fossil fuels, and decided to reorient his business and personal interests toward potential solutions to the country's increasing reliance on foreign suppliers.

Those interests gradually led him to the field of alternative energy, particularly wind and solar power. With the incorporation of Nixon World Enterprises in 1980, he began offering clients worldwide consulting expertise and access to key officials on subjects such as energy security and alternative energy.

That expertise continues to be in demand.

Presented by ODU's Virginia Applied Technology and Professional Development Center (VATPDC), Engineering Unplugged is the premier green event of its kind in Hampton Roads, providing a unique opportunity to showcase expertise about green buildings, energy conservation, alternative energy and greenhouse gases.

Nixon's forays into alternative energy picked up steam after he met with German inventor John Laing, whose work focused on energy-efficient devices and possibilities for improving wind energy conversion suitable for utility-grade electric power. Further discussions revealed that Laing also possessed considerable expertise in the field of solar energy.

Since that time, Nixon has devoted more and more of his attention to the development of new methods for solar electric power generation - techniques that may ultimately provide the breakthrough needed to compete successfully with traditional energy producers.

In 2009, Engineering Unplugged drew more than 250 attendees, 29 exhibitors and 17 sponsors from as far away as Mexico. The 2009 demographics represented a broad spectrum of attendees, including architectural and design firms, military, construction companies, manufacturers, facilities managers and general industry.

"The environment is a critical issue for all of our well-beings. In addition to individuals adjusting their behavior, solving climate change issues will require the work of innovative entrepreneurs," said Oktay Baysal, the dean of ODU's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology. "For this to happen we need the research, ingenuity and expertise of engineers. Engineering Unplugged is a perfect showcase for that innovation."

The comprehensive Engineering Unplugged curriculum is designed to provide expertise for engineering firms to:

• Prepare for changes in environmental practices with cutting-edge experts from the U.S. Green Building Council, Old Dominion University, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;

• Identify areas where known energy loss and consumption waste money;

• Learn about the real cost-savers in alternative energy; and

• Lower carbon footprints by continuous emissions monitoring of greenhouse gases, and use of other technologies.

Engineering Unplugged will feature workshops and demonstrations by recognized leaders in the field of environmental engineering. The educational component of the conference will focus on three tracks:

• LEED and Green Buildings - including case studies of many Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design buildings;

• Energy Conservation and Alternative Energy - such as solar thermal and wind energy technology, and the "smart grid"; and

• Greenhouse Gases - including hybrid vehicles, a case study by Maersk Shipping Lines of carbon footprint reduction, Lipton Tea's achievement of "zero landfill" status, and a case study of green rail: light, high-speed and maglev.

For more information about the conference, see the Engineering Unplugged Web site at http://www.engineeringunplugged.com/home.htm, or call VATPDC at 757-683-5479.

This article was posted on: March 22, 2010

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