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Clarkson joins federal Industrial Assessment Center program

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POTSDAM — Clarkson University is teaming up with Syracuse University to offer free energy and efficiency audits to area manufacturers.

Clarkson was made a satellite campus of Syracuse’s Industrial Assessment Center, a federally-funded program that uses university students to provide the audits free of charge.

“We were asked by Syracuse to participate,” said Kenneth D. Visser, Clarkson professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering.“Apparently this year the IAC program allowed the establishment of satellites.”

The U.S. Department of Energy funds the program annually, said Jonathan Smegal, workforce development lead for the Department of Energy.

“Nationally, it is funded in the neighborhood of $6 mil per year,” he said. “The lion’s share goes directly to the schools.”

As a satellite campus, it is unclear how much of the funding will go to Clarkson.

“We’re kind of like Syracuse up here — they get the funding from the DOE and they’re like subcontracting out to us,” said Mr. Visser.

The program benefits local manufacturers by reducing energy costs and increasing efficiency and productivity, said Mr. Visser.

“They’re small to medium size companies, not the big ones,” he said. “Companies can contact us, we get some names and send them down to Syracuse. Part of the reason for having a satellite up here is we’re two and a half hours north of Syracuse. Driving to a place like Plattsburgh is easier for us than Syracuse.”

Mr. Smegal said involvement in the program adds prestige to host schools and their professors.

“These are selfless people, these are teachers, they benefit from the work that they do and it helps their careers,” he said. “There is the prestige and notoriety of being an IAC director. President Obama was visiting the University of Miami IAC earlier this year, and the Secretary of Energy was at one in Indiana.”

The audits also give students real-life work experience.

“There’s a host of benefits,” said Mr. Smegal. “The schools are generating a new type of engineer, these are energy engineers, they have hands-on experience, they’re out of the lab and getting out into the industrial community and getting their hands dirty and learning a certain set of schools that are going to benefit them.”

Mr. Smegal said participation in an IAC gives students a career boost, too.

“Ninety percent of them leave school with job offers in hand,” he said. “Engineers don’t have much of an unemployment problem to begin with, but I have done some informal querying among IAC schools, they have a much higher percentage of job-in-hand when they leave. After they leave, they do great things.”

The audits are only required to focus on the energy use of small to medium-sized manufacturers, but past audits have also looked at productivity and waste-reduction.

Though Industrial Assessment Centers have existed for more than 35 years, they fit in well with the Obama Administration’s push for greater efficiency and more use of renewable energy.

“It is my favorite program,” said Mr. Smegal. “The program is a low-cost model. These assessments are one day, close to the campuses, and they benefit the companies, schools and students.”

Mr. Visser said the program meets many of Clarkson’s core principles as well.

“This meshes well with Clarkson’s position on sustainable energy systems, I push for that kind of stuff,” he said. “When there are opportunities to build upon our focus on sustainable energy, we go after them.”

To qualify for a free assessment, manufacturers must be within 150 miles of a satellite campus, employ fewer than 500 people and have gross sales below $100 million. If interested, manufacturers can contact Mr. Visser by phone at 315-268-7687 or email at visser@clarkson.edu.

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