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McDonnell, Ed Nixon Highlight Engineering Unplugged Conference at ODU

Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell appeared at Old Dominion University, signing nine bills to promote alternative energy. On Tuesday, April 13, the governor will return to ODU, to speak at the Engineering Unplugged conference, the preeminent conference in the region dedicated to environmental engineering concepts.

The conference is at ODU's Ted Constant Convocation Center. McDonnell's speech at 3 p.m., when he will address his energy plan for the commonwealth, is just one event in a day of attractions for people interested in the intersection of engineering and the environment.

The keynote speaker for Engineering Unplugged is Ed Nixon, environmentalist and brother of the late Richard Nixon, 37th president of the United States. Nixon's lunch-time address will highlight his personal quest to push the United States in the direction of alternative energy.

Nixon, a former naval officer and pilot, 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.

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

At the end of the day, the Grow Green marketplace and Happy Hour will highlight efforts by some local food and beverage companies to produce and market their products in a sustainable fashion. Green vendors will set up booths and tables for tastings, and fresh regional produce and dry goods will be available to sample and purchase.

Conference attendees can stroll among the booths while music plays, and a presentation on living green is made by Grow Green general manager Bev Sell.

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.

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: April 7, 2010

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