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YSU team to compete in Green Energy Challenge

September 19, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

Youngstown State University's student National Electrical Contractor's Association chapter will compete in the finals of the NECA Green Energy Challenge in Las Vegas Sept. 30 after its proposal to decrease the energy consumption at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor was chosen among the best nationally.

The team comprised of 15 engineering and engineering technology students earned one of the final four spots in the competition. They will be facing similar teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Iowa State University, and the University of Washington.

The YSU team rehearsed its final presentation in front of a panel of local electrical contractors. They provided the team with professional guidance and financial support towards the championship event. The finals team includes Mike Currao of Youngstown, Jason Nutt of Cortland, Ethan Parks of North Lima, Jarrett Scacchetti of Canfield, Kalen Wallace of Youngstown, and David Wright of Washingtonville.

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Photo special to the Town Crier
Youngstown State University’s student National Electrical Contractor’s Association chapter will have a team competing in the Green Energy Challenge in Las Vegas on Sept. 30. The team is made up of students Nick Gealy and Mike Currao, Eric Carlson of Dickey Electric, student Kalen Wallace, Jack Morse of IBEW #573, students Dave Wright, Ethan Parks, Jarrett Scacchetti, Jason Nutt, Jim Burgham of IBEW #64, Dr. Jalal Jalali, YSU's chairman of electrical and computer engineering, and Tom Travers from Mahoning Valley NECA.

"As a business community it's important to support academic programs like this because it applies the theory students learn in the classroom to practical situations like they'll experience in the workforce," said Thomas J. Travers, executive director, Mahoning Valley NECA. "Seeing the students excel is not only a proud moment for those involved, but it demonstrates the talent we have in the Mahoning Valley."

For Canfield's Scacchetti, a 2009 CHS graduate, the competition is a summit to his passion of engineering.

"I'm the typical engineering student who played with Tinker Toys and Legos when I was little, but I would say the defining moment in my life would be a technology course I had in middle school with Mr. (Dave) Izzo where we built and programmed Lego Robots," Scacchetti said. "I was so excited about robots that I joined the after school robotics club advised by Mr. Izzo where I competed on a team in the local NEOREP, North East Ohio Robotics Education Program, held at YSU. I continued with engineering activities and robotics in high school in the JETS club, Junior Engineering Technical Society, organized and advised by Mr. (Don) Crum. Having such great mentors throughout middle and high school, teaching me numerous technology and engineering concepts, really helped me pursue engineering as a career."

Scacchetti and YSU are not new to the competition. According to spokesman Jim Houck, they have been there before.

"It's the third year for YSU's participation, but the competition has been in existence for longer," Houck said. "Interestingly, in its first two years, YSU finished third and second nationally (out of more than 25 teams)."

Scacchetti, who was a member of last year's second place team, said putting together the plan for energy savings in this competition requires planning.

"The first step in creating a plan is to do a site assessment," he said. "That's where an engineering team does a walk through of a building to see what systems are currently in place, and brainstorm ideas on what and how different systems can be upgraded and or incorporated to be more efficient. After the team assess the current systems, they design an upgraded system and perform a full scale cost analysis to calculate the payback period of the upgrade to see if it is cost effective."

The YSU team's plan impressed the panels of judges enough that they made the cut. YSU professor of engineering and team advisor Theodore Bosela, Ph.D., said placing in the final four is good for the university as well as the students.

"Accomplishments like this put the university on the map, and this program strengthens our ties with businesses in the Mahoning Valley," Bosela said. "For the students, it teaches how to work collaboratively and how to present their ideas effectively, both vital skills in today's business world."

As for the competition, the Green Energy Challenge involves performing an energy audit of a campus building's power and lighting systems, and identifying areas for reducing energy consumption. Students prepare and present a comprehensive report that includes a proposal to make recommended improvements. Reports are judged by a panel of contractors and industry partners. This year, YSU was one of 27 schools competing for the final four spots.

Scacchetti said when he found out his team made the final four, he immediately got in touch with other team members to share their moment of joy and accomplishment.

For the future, Scacchetti said he is looking at robotics, but he will have a great deal of knowledge when it comes to going green.

"Most people think alternative energy when they hear the buzz words 'green energy; however, using energy efficient lighting and HVAC systems, appliances, etc., are just as important," he said. "It's 'green' by reducing the amount of electricity consumed by the system and these types of upgrades have a much faster ROI, return on investment, than alternative energy systems for the average building. By having an energy audit done to a building, you can see where and how much can be upgraded to save energy and money. The older the systems are in the building, the faster the payback will be for the upgrade. In our proposal of the Youngstown Historical Center, the lighting and mechanical upgrades will pay for themselves in 2.09 and 0.95 years respectively."



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