Energy Center Brings New Opportunities for Students

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SEDALIA - State Fair Community College in Sedalia is furthering its hands-on learning opportunities for students through a new energy innovation center.

The new center, which is already holding classes, provides an educational and training opportunity for students in advanced energy systems.

Students in the biomass program will learn how to effectively manage a landfill and methane gas. They will also learn to control the plant and other systems which monitor the power outputs.

Another focus of the new center is to bring in businesses to explore new energy technologies. Students will actively work with the businesses developing new practices.

"We try to engage businesses and industries in our programs not just in advisory boards which are tradition to review curriculum, but to engage them to offer students internships and opportunities to see their skill sets and to provide them employment for when they come out of here," said Mark Kelchner, dean of Technical Education and Work Force Innovation at State Fair Community College.

The one catch--deans and professors within the college are searching for a business or businesses to partner with the center.

In 2010, Harvey Buhr of Hitec LLC in Bonnots Mill east of Jefferson City signed with State Fair Community College. Buhr developed a process to convert tires into gas, oil, carbon and steal. The processor is able to recover the energy and the materials.

ProEnergy Services in Sedalia approached Buhr in late 2010.

"It looked like an ideal project for us to be part of their innovation center for energy, so we met with them and decided to establish our first proof of principal plan," Buhr said.

Buhr's proof of principal plan consisted of explanations of his equipment to prove it was reliable and the processor would work on a continuous basis. His plan also included training people in Sedalia, including students, to operate the machinery.

But there were delays in setting up the project, so Buhr decided to find another location for the processors. He partnered with a facility in North Carolina instead.

"It certainly would have been much easier for the Hitec group to have developed that facility in Sedalia, which is an hour and a half away rather than 14 hours away, but you have to do what you have to do," Buhr said.

The college is using fundraising efforts to locate emerging energy businesses around the state.

"I've already made some contacts with a company in Warrensburg, so it's really about getting the word out," Director of Renewable Energy John Burns said. "Getting the word out is going to be my biggest problem."

While the center does not have any businesses to partner with at the time, it has become the main focus now that the engines for the center are running. 

"There is a lot of ideas in different arenas out there, a lot of people trying and testing and doing different things, and we hope to attract someone who can utilize that space and partner with us, if you will, to accelerate their idea," Kelchner said. 

Businesses interested in partnering with State Fair to explore energy advancements can contact the dean of Technical Education and Workforce Innovation, Mark Kelchner, at mkelchner@sfccmo.edu. 

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