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Shades of Green: Engineering student harnesses untapped clean energy

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Christian Aponte

Engineering student Christian Aponte: “I view my time at UIC as an opportunity to make a ‘clean’ difference.”

Christian Aponte is finishing his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. Born in Puerto Rico, he will be the first in his immediate family to earn a college degree. He plans to use his education to make the world a greener place.

Here is his story:

My desire to be involved in the world of sustainability came from asking myself a question we sometimes forget to ask in college — what can I really do with my degree?

A few years ago I realized that we, as a society, are not taking advantage of all that is being offered to us by Mother Nature: wind, water and the sun. Every day we are wasting more and more opportunities to harvest this “free” and “efficient” energy.

Besides the elements of nature, there are other ways to harvest untapped energy. I have so many ideas!

The UIC campus covers about 311 acres and has approximately 27,000 students each semester. Every day, each student performs some action on campus that can be harnessed as clean energy, without even realizing it. Walking, running, sitting, riding a bicycle, driving a car, going up/down stairs, using elevators, opening/closing doors are just a few.

Can you imagine the possibilities if processes were created to turn these actions into “free” energy?

Why not place pressure plates on sidewalks to harvest that energy? Put some type of rechargeable batteries on revolving doors to accumulate all this untapped power? We could place mini-solar panels on each light post.

I imagine my electrical engineering degree will lead to being involved in green projects in the industry and local community.

For example, ComEd’s emerging Smart Grid technology will enhance service reliability, help customers make smarter decisions about energy use and contribute to lower energy costs while reducing carbon emissions. This is the type of technology I hope to contribute to in the near future.

“Efficiency” is the word that comes to my mind as the main focus for my degree. I feel that I can provide affordable green technology for my local community.

As I think about future life-defining decisions, I look back upon my experiences for inspiration and direction. I view my time at UIC as an opportunity to make a “clean” difference.

Kate Yoshida is program coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.

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