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About the Group

For more than a generation, people have assumed the use of petroleum as the basis for meeting society’s energy needs. Not only have petroleum products been essential for fuels but most commonly used products also include petroleum-based chemicals.

“Moving to the use of biofuels has many implications and involves new ways of thinking about energy and products,’’ says Steven Hollenhorst, associate dean and professor in Conservation Social Sciences at the University of Idaho.

The Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) Education group aims to:

  1. Meet the workforce needs of the bio-energy/bioproducts economy
  2. Develop a broad, integrated view of the biofuels problem among emerging scientists and engineers
  3. Enhance communication skills of scientists and engineers so that they can better engage society in their work
  4. Develop the next generation of energy leaders for industry, government, and the civic sector
  5. Improve biofuels literacy of teachers educating our future citizens
  6. Strengthen overall science literacy of students in areas particular to the biofuels

“People are going to need to make decisions along the whole supply chain — from the resource to the airports,’’ said Hollenhorst. “Our job is to engage citizens and help people understand how they’re going to fit into this new energy economy.’’

Educating and training the future bioenergy workforce:

  • K-12 Education: Work to develop education curricula on bioenergy and biofuel, which will be tested and distributed. This will occur through science education centers, including the McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS), and Facing the Future, a non-profit organization that provides curricular materials in sustainability, along with their networks of K-12 schools and Pacific Northwest communities. The effort includes workshops and institutes for K-12 teachers interested in integrating bioenergy into their curricula. The K-12 component also includes a program called Imagine Tomorrow with BioFuels that challenges teams of high school students to seek new ways to support the transition to alternative energy sources. A key component of the entire K-12 effort is the interaction of science professionals and researchers with K-12 students and teachers.

    Imagine Tomorrow Literacy Assessments and Surveys

  • Undergraduate education: Create a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program at Washington State University. During a 10-week summer session, the SURE program will allow undergraduate students to work with faculty and graduate students on research projects related to bioenergy and biofuels. During the five-year project, the group aims to train 150 undergraduate students.

    Find out more about working in the SURE program

  • Graduate Education: Develop the Bio-IDeX program. The effort will combine graduate programs at University of Idaho (bioregional planning and land use policy) with the Integrated Design Experience (IDeX) at WSU. The program will provide students with studio experiences and working in a community context to engage in the new economy. The students will work with “clients” to come up with holistic solutions in the area of biofuels and bioenergy. In addition, graduate education will occur to through the University of Washington’s IGERT program, which is focused on bio-resource based energy. During the five year project, the group aims to train 50 graduate students. The program has strong collaboration with Columbia River Basin tribes.

    Find out more about graduate work with NARA

“These programs essentially give us a presence in educational programs in the Pacific Northwest, at all levels from elementary school through graduate programs,” said Hollenhorst.