House Sustainability & Economic Development Committee
Testimony: February 3, 2009
Christopher G. Maples, President, Oregon Institute of Technology
Chairman Read, Vice-Chair Bentz, Vice-Chair Galizio, Rep. Bailey, Rep. Gilliam, Rep. Thatcher, Rep. Witt, and Rep. Holvey, my name is Chris Maples, and I am President of Oregon Institute of Technology. Thank you very much for this opportunity to share with you some of Oregon Tech's work in the area of sustainability.
First, please allow me to give you an overview of Oregon Tech and its service throughout the state. Oregon Tech provides technology-based educational opportunities at the undergraduate level at seven locations within Oregon and at The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. Our main campus is in Klamath Falls, where the institute was founded in 1947. In 1983, we began delivering upper-division coursework in the Portland metropolitan area, and Oregon Tech now has four campus locations in Portland and adjacent communities. We have a respiratory care program in Medford in cooperation with Rogue Community College, and a dental hygiene program in La Grande in partnership with ODS and Eastern Oregon University. Currently, Oregon Tech's sole graduate program is Manufacturing Engineering Technology, which is offered in Klamath Falls, Portland, and Seattle. Our programs with Boeing in Seattle and our Dental Hygiene Program in La Grande with ODS and Eastern Oregon are excellent examples of the collaboration and private-public partnerships that we value at Oregon Tech.
Oregon Tech is known for its readily employable graduates. Each program has an industry-advisory council, which works to ensure that our curricula are immediately relevant to industry. In addition, Oregon Tech is known for the rigor of its undergraduate offerings, which also prepare our students for success in graduate and post-graduate institutions. In a survey of 2006 graduates, 98 percent were either employed or in graduate school six months after graduation.
Oregon Tech has an enrollment of about 3,300 students at all locations. The hallmark of the Oregon Tech experience is a personal approach to education. Our student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1, and every student must complete an applied project, in many instances research based, before graduating. Our faculty members know their students, and our students are able to focus their interests on meaningful learning experiences. Last week, we unveiled Oregon Tech's tagline: Hands-on education for real-world achievement.
The institute's work in the sustainable realm began in 1963 when a student senior project involved documenting geothermal wells in use throughout Klamath Falls. The following year, the Klamath Falls campus moved to its current site where geothermal technology was utilized to heat and cool campus buildings.
In 1974, a geothermal conference was held on the Klamath Falls campus, and a national clearinghouse of information on geothermal technology was founded there as the Geo-Heat Center. The Geo-Heat Center has gone on to receive international recognition for its consulting work in the field. Consequently, our engineering students have had this vital learning resource available to them for more than 30 years. In fact, the current director of the Geo-Heat Center, Dr. John Lund, is an emeritus professor from civil engineering, and the assistant director, Ms. Toni Boyd, is an Oregon Tech alumna from that program.
The Geo-Heat Center is part of the Oregon Renewable Energy Center (OREC), which was sited at Oregon Tech by the Oregon Legislature in 2001, in part because of the work being done at Oregon Tech in geothermal, solar, and hybrid-car technologies by our students and faculty. Indeed, earlier this decade, a cross-disciplinary group from Oregon Tech's computer systems engineering technology, mechanical engineering, and electronics engineering departments created a home climate-monitoring system that cost 1/100th of the price of a commercial unit (approximately $300 as opposed to approximately $30,000). The technology was used in Portland's Rose House and in the Cannon Beach Cottage. The Cannon Beach Cottage received national attention for the use of sustainable practices throughout its construction, including the OIT-created home climate-monitoring system.
In spring 2005, Oregon Tech became the first university in the nation to offer a Renewable Energy Systems bachelor's degree. Four students were enrolled, and we had our first graduate last spring. Today we have 118 students enrolled and approval to offer a Renewable Energy Engineering degree. Many of our students already hold a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, and we are working with the Oregon State Board of Higher Education to begin offering a master's of Renewable Energy Engineering.
Sustainability is truly a theme across the Oregon Tech campuses, and it is implemented throughout the curricula in the School of Engineering, Management and Technology. Here are some examples of coursework being taught within various disciplines.
Our civil engineering students are involved with green-building techniques and transportation systems, while computer systems engineering technology majors help with control systems for biofuels production and the previously mentioned building-control systems.
Electronics engineering students study power electronics, while their peers in geomatics, or land surveying, as it is commonly known, prepare site analyses for wind and solar farms and have the option of specializing in geographic information systems.
The management department currently is under review to offer a management/entrepreneurship degree in renewable energy, and operations management students learn about lean management practices, especially in the areas of production and manufacturing. The health informatics option within information technology addresses the current move toward a paperless healthcare system, with the attenuate cost savings in minimized redundancies and maximized accuracy.
Our department of manufacturing and mechanical engineering and technology has students involved with wind, solar, geothermal, and wave energy, as well as lean manufacturing systems.
On January 24, we broke ground for a deep geothermal well that will produce water at a temperature above 300¢ªF. This water will power a steam turbine that will create electricity to serve the entire need of the Klamath Falls campus. This high-temperature power plant also will be accompanied by a low-temperature plant, which will be placed on campus this spring. Both facilities will serve as laboratories for our students and will provide the opportunity to place information on the Internet to serve interested individuals across the globe. We were pleased to host engineers from Iceland who attended the groundbreaking ceremony and will be here throughout the drilling process to learn some of the techniques being used to bring the local geothermal resource online. When that occurs, Oregon Tech will become the first university in the world to be powered entirely by geothermal technology, just as we were the first university in the nation to be heated and cooled entirely by geothermal processes, and the first to offer a renewable energy engineering degree.
We are working with the Oregon University System to create a Green Energy Demonstration Park near the Klamath Falls campus. By providing the opportunity for Oregonians to see renewable energy in production, Oregon Tech also will have the means to create more green electricity to serve the offset needs of other OUS campuses. The Green Energy Demonstration Park also will serve as a green business accelerator, providing the means for entrepreneurs to experiment with various products before investing their resources for production.
In keeping with Oregon Tech's public-private connections, one of our Renewable Energy Engineering faculty members, Dr. Mateo Aboy, recently has passed the US Patent and Trademark Office bar examination. This accomplishment by one of our premier engineering faculty members will enable Oregon Tech to serve the needs of our students who want to learn some of the basics of protecting their intellectual property and moving technologies from laboratories to markets. Indeed, our faculty members and administrative leaders are in continual conversation with business representatives to strengthen opportunities for our students and Oregon citizens as a whole.
Finally, I should note that Oregon Tech also has a very active and very creative Sustainability Committee, which makes recommendations for green and sustainable practices throughout the university. Coupled with our industry-based renewable energy engineering advisory board, these two constituent-based groups will keep the Oregon Tech efforts in sustainability and economic development fresh and relevant.
I hope this gives you a feeling for Oregon Tech's unique niche across the state of Oregon and in the Pacific Northwest. As noted earlier, our philosophical approach to education - small classes, rigorous programs, dedicated faculty, applied fields of study - is embodied in our new tag line: Hands-on education for real-world achievement.
I thank you for this opportunity to share with you some of the accomplishments of Oregon Tech's students and faculty in the area of sustainability and economic development. I would be happy to address any questions you may have.