This solar panel is just one of the many tools SolarRetrievers is using to help make the UMBC campus more environmentally friendly. Photo by Cassandra Medley.
In 2013, solar power technology was being installed at an average rate of once every four minutes. GTM Research reported nearly double that frequency the following year, and US renewable energy usage has consistently been on the rise. SolarRetrievers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been working to ensure their campus keeps up.
“The main emphasis of our club right now is to provide solar solutions to problems on campus,” says Daniel Corteville, a junior mechanical engineering major and the current president of the organization. He joined while it was still under the umbrella of the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, became the secretary in his sophomore year, and was elected to be in charge several months ago. “I just thought it’d be a cool club,” he explains. It did not disappoint.
Membership is around a dozen students, most of whom are engineering majors, but new and non-STEM students are also welcome. The group has previously collaborated with the Art Club, although its current work is with the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers as well as Facilities Management.
“We’re working with IEEE to create an automated, solar-powered water system for a garden,” Corteville explains. They are also looking to add a solar aspect to a pressure-sensitive crosswalk light for Facilities Management, and hope to make the new lighting between the Performing Arts and Humanities building and the Walker apartments renewable. More project opportunities are always being pursued.
You can see the fruits of their past designs in front of the Retriever Activities Center, on The Commons Terrace or in the Harbor Courtyard, all in the form of solar panel tables. Funded by the Prove It! Initiative and constructed by outside contractors, they represent a state of eco-friendliness at UMBC. A previous solar statue project was scrapped due to a lack of grant funding, but more possibilities should come into view as the club grows.
“If our projects from this year are successful, I could see getting a lot more collaborations,” says Corteville. “I want to make a positive impact on the school.” Without anything definite yet, he senses a “strong desire” for solar power among school officials too and hopes to foray this into additional work for the club.
“I’m not sure what I want to do after I graduate; there are a lot of ways mechanical engineering can go,” he shares. What he does know for sure is that he supports the goals of SolarRetrievers, and right now those goals involve using his and his team’s skills to do good work.
“This is first-hand design experience,” Corteville advertises on behalf of the student organization. “Everyone is accepted. Design-wise we could use people who could sketch things up, so yeah — we would want humanities majors, too.” With new projects expected, the team is also looking to find new individuals to work with.
“If you’re willing to help make a difference on campus, you can use your skills at SolarRetrievers,” emphasizes Corteville. Indeed, with the booming industry and positive impact of solar power, the sky — well, the sun — is the limit.