Since the advent of the steam engine people have increasingly exploited new energy sources to do their work for them, especially for manufacturing, heating, lighting, residential comfort, and transportation. The use of fossil fuels to multiply man’s capacity to do work has altered the face of the planet for both good and bad. Of particular concern is the increase in CO2 emissions that are linked to global warming. Are these concerns well founded?
The course begins by identifying types of energy, their role, and their manipulation, with a particular focus on how electrical energy is generated. We will then rapidly jump into a history of inventions starting with the steam engine, as well as the evolution of improvements that increased the efficiency of extracting useful work out of the energy sources. We will investigate internal combustion machines, electric motors, and turbines. Along the way we will consider the contrasts between lifestyles 200 years ago and today, and question whether we could revert to that lifestyle or not. We will investigate the history of petroleum and how it dominated the energy market. We will consider its significant value in many modern products, which suggests the need to not exhaust it merely as an energy source.
The second half of the course will address the vexing challenge of meeting the world’s exponential demand for and dependence on the world’s diminishing fuel supplies. Alternative energy will be man's attempt to replace fossil fuels with sustainable ones. We will study conventional sources like wind, water, solar, and geothermal. Time allowing and based on class interest, we will investigate more controversial sources like zero-point energy, water powered cars, biofuels, algae fuels, and radiant energy detectors. This course will also focus on developing intuitive insights into the benefits and limitations of various approaches to energy generation, and how to differentiate between hype, scientific analysis, and political interference.
By the end of this course, you will:
• Gain a historical perspective of the evolution of technology to convert available energy sources into useful work output efficiently.
• Appreciate the technical trade-offs and limitations of devices that convert energy into useful work.
• Gain a familiarity to energy converter operation through hands-on construction of different devices such as Stirling engines, electric motors, air powered and fuel cell driven miniature vehicles.
• Address candidate trade-offs and perspectives about how to address the issues relating to climate change.
This course should provide a strong foundation for anyone interested in pursuing energy studies and their connection to environmental impact and human nature.
On-Campus Supplemental Fee: $125
Although not essential, familiarity with algebra will be helpful to express engineering concepts with formulas and to be able to model different aspects of energy performance. In addition, alternative energy engineering can involve a myriad of diverse factors, such as science, politics, human nature, and non-intuitive discoveries. An eagerness to embrace many new concepts with a critical, yet receptive attitude will make the course enjoyable.
Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.