Making the classroom connect to the real world is a pillar of undergraduate education at UMBC. Dawn Bennett, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, recently took that principle to heart, on a field trip with her Thermodynamics (ENME 217) students to see how a local power plant is striving to be greener.
Throughout the course, Bennett expanded class topics beyond textbook examples with a focus on global environmental issues and practical problems. Her students took part in the 2009 National Teach-In on Global Warming with a viewing of Al Gore’s Academy Award winning movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Students also learned how to lower their personal carbon footprints by changing their mode of transportation, eating organic or simply planting a vegetable garden or a tree.
Bennett’s students also visited Constellation Energy’s Brandon Shores Power Plant to see how modern electricity is produced and how coal-burning power plants are striving to become cleaner, more efficient and environmentally friendly.
UMBC alumnus and Brandon Shores engineer Nathan Dixon ’07, mechanical engineering, and Kevin Thornton, communications representative for Constellation, explained how thermodynamics formulas and fundamental laws work at the plant, and gave an overview of the facility’s operations. The students toured the plant, and wrote essays afterwards on what they learned.
Brandon Shores is one of the main producers of electricity for Maryland residents, using 6,000 tons of coal per day to power hundreds of thousands of homes per hour. Over 99 percent of the emission waste at the plant is removed prior to being released from the chimneys, and Brandon Shores also recycles 60 percent of the hundreds of tons of fly ash that it produces daily. The plant recently began a multi-billion dollar emissions-reduction and scrubbing project that will reduce emissions to one chimney instead of the current two.
“I enjoyed the tour from the combined perspective of engineering student and an environmentalist,” said junior mechanical engineering major Chelsea Stinson.
“The Brandon Shores plant tour gave students a parallel between theory in class and its real world application,” said sophomore mechanical engineering major Garrett Krol.