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Call Me MISTER


CMM-graduation3

Listen to the MISTERs sing “One MISTER”:

Providing positive role models in classrooms and communities

TEACHING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL was not the future that Daniel Spencer ’09 envisioned as a high school senior in Swansea, South Carolina. With two brothers having dropped out of high school (one of whom served prison time) and parents who didn’t go to college, postsecondary education wasn’t even on his radar — even though he was in the top 10 percent of his graduating class.

Daniel Spencer_042correctFortunately, he decided at the last minute to apply to Coastal Carolina University and chose elementary education as his major.

“I didn’t have a clue,” Spencer said. “I thought, ‘Well, I passed elementary school. I should be able to teach it!’”

When Spencer’s English professor learned about his major, he told him about Call Me MISTER®, a program started at Clemson to encourage and place African-American male teachers in South Carolina’s public elementary school classrooms. He advised Spencer to transfer to Clemson to be a part of the program. The rest, he says, is history.

“From the first day, Call Me MISTER changed what I thought would be easy into a lifetime challenge of working with people and shaping the lives of youth,” Spencer said.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

This was a challenge observed 15 years ago by Clemson University as well as Benedict College, Claflin University and Morris College, three historically black institutions in the state.

“We found that there were more black men in jail than were sleeping in the dormitories of the colleges in our state,” said Roy Jones, Call Me MISTER director and a faculty member at Clemson’s Eugene T. Moore School of Education. “There were more black men in prisons than were teaching in our state, especially in elementary education. That we saw as a problem.”

And, Jones added, in a state that is one-third African-American and where young black males were being expelled, referred to discipline and dropping out of school at higher rates than any gender or ethnic group, fewer than one percent of the state’s teaching workforce were African-American males.

Leaders at the four institutions saw a connection between those figures. They determined that if you could increase the number of African-American males in the classroom, perhaps there would be more avenues for understanding and tackling the challenges that confront young black boys during their formative years.

“We got together and said, ‘We can do something about this,’” Jones said.

And Call Me MISTER was born.

Clemson — along with Benedict, Claflin and Morris — started Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) in 2000. Clemson provided fundraising and program support, while the remaining three colleges carried out the program on their campuses.

Housed in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education at Clemson, Call Me MISTER combines teacher education with co-curricular programs such as retreats, seminars, academic support, mentoring, a summer institute, internships and volunteer opportunities. Participants, known as MISTERs, also live and study together as cohorts and receive tuition assistance through loan forgiveness programs as well as help with job placement.

Since its inception, the program has grown to 19 colleges/universities in South Carolina, including Clemson and Coastal Carolina. That number also includes several two-year community and technical colleges, a move made to provide greater opportunity and access to the program.

As a result of these efforts, there has been a 75 percent increase in the number of African-American males teaching in South Carolina’s public elementary schools. Of the 150 students who have completed the Call Me MISTER program in the Palmetto State, 100 percent of them remain in the education field.

Understanding that the issue is not South Carolina’s alone — that nationally, the number of male teachers is at a 40-year low, and that African-American males comprise less than 2 percent of the teaching workforce — Call Me MISTER has expanded to include 13 colleges in Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia and the District of Columbia. Including graduates and current students, approximately 425 participants are in the program nationwide.

IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

CMM-summer1Since the program’s inception, Call Me MISTER leaders have found that its purpose is being fulfilled: more African-American males are entering elementary classrooms and more African-American children — especially boys — are seeing them as positive role models.

“There’s no doubt about what it means for so many kids to see an African-American male in a position of authority where he is also nurturing, where he is also loving and where he is also mentoring,” said Winston Holton, who leads Clemson’s Call Me MISTER cohort. “Our MISTERs are filling an important void.”

But the program is doing something more — it is exacting a powerful personal influence that transcends race, gender and socioeconomics.

“I believe that Call Me MISTER is making up the difference between what’s not happening in our homes, schools and communities and what needs to happen — and that is the fostering of healthy relationships,” Holton said.

“We don’t have healthy relationships across too many lines,” Holton continued. “You see this playing out every day in schools and playgrounds across South Carolina — and in teacher’s lounges, in businesses, in families, in neighborhoods, everywhere.”

From day one, Call Me MISTER encourages — even requires — its students to pursue healthy relationships, Holton said. Through an intentional yet organic process, MISTERs learn to understand and articulate their life stories and hear each other’s stories with empathy and understanding — and this skill makes all the difference when they enter the classroom and community as teachers.

“The result is that MISTERs have the capacity to empathize with their students, parents, fellow teachers and community members just as they, themselves, have experienced empathy,” Holton said. “They are able to see through the differences, even the maladies, and really see another’s humanity. That’s how learning happens and how students, schools and communities are elevated.”

“It’s all about relationships,” Holton summarized.

I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Countless young people have been influenced by their relationships with Daniel Spencer, including his niece and nephew, the children of his formerly incarcerated brother.

“I was trying to help raise them, and I realized through Call Me MISTER that I wasn’t teaching them; I was just telling them what to do,” Spencer said. “Listening to the MISTERs and learning from them taught me that I can do things differently — and that I can make a difference.”

 

Spencer’s niece and nephew, now ages 15 and 16, live with him in Seneca — happily adjusted and involved in school and community activities.

Spencer is also making a difference in his classroom at Blue Ridge Elementary, a Title 1 school with a high percentage of children from low-income families. He meets with each child individually and sets goals for the year, based not only on test scores but also the child’s own aspirations. And he holds them accountable to those goals, meeting with them throughout the year.

“I get to know all the kids and strive to meet everyone where they are,” Spencer said. “But I’ve gotten past the ‘I’m here for them to like me’ thing because at the end of the day, I know that they are going to love me — because they respect me, and they know I believe in them.”

What results from this exchange of respect, caring and expectation is academic progress. “The kids are exceeding their own expectations, which translates into authentic learning,” Spencer said.

SPIRIT OF HOPE FOR CHANGE

It is clear that authentic learning is needed for South Carolina’s children. The Palmetto State ranks 43rd in education, according to the 2014 Kids Count Profile, with 72 percent of South Carolina’s fourth graders lacking proficiency in reading, and 69 percent of eighth graders identified as below proficiency in math. Twenty-eight percent of high school students aren’t graduating on time, if at all.

The same report ranks South Carolina 44th in economic well-being and child health — both factors that affect children’s performance in school.

The statistics grow more dire in underserved schools and communities, where employment and other opportunities have increasingly diminished, says Roy Jones.

With these factors in mind, Jones and his colleagues focus on recruiting MISTERs from underserved areas and encouraging them to return to their communities or others with similar challenges.

“Call Me MISTER teachers are at the cutting edge of a new crusade — to ensure quality education in underserved areas by creating a pool of talented teachers who are fiercely loyal to their schools and communities,” Jones said. “Such teachers embody the spirit of hope for change.”

I WANT TO SEE THESE KIDS GROW UP

CMM-Spencerclass1“Fiercely loyal” could be used to describe Daniel Spencer. Since he started his career at Blue Ridge, he has been offered many opportunities to teach in other school districts, but he is dedicated to remaining at the school and in the community where he has served as a volunteer since his days as a Clemson student.

“The first kids I mentored when they were in the fourth grade are now in the 11th grade,” he said. “I want to see these kids grow up.”

In addition to teaching, Spencer coaches high school basketball and middle school football in Seneca, attends his students’ extracurricular activities, holds free basketball clinics and workouts at Blue Ridge during the summer, and takes students to events such as Clemson’s spring football scrimmage, which many of them have never attended even though they live less than 10 miles away. When he greets former students or players in the grocery store or at school events, they avoid him if their grades aren’t up to par, because they know he’ll ask. “I love being there and talking to the kids because the more they see positive people and consistently have positive people talking to them, the better they are going to do,” he said.

THE INTANGIBLE ‘MORE’

What is it about Call Me MISTER that inspires such dedication and selflessness? If you talk to anyone associated with the program, you’ll find that it’s because it’s more than a program — it’s a lifestyle, a way of being.

The intangible “more” begins with the name of the program. The brainchild of Call Me MISTER founding director Tom Parks, the name is not only an acronym but also a tribute to a famous line by Virgil Tibbs (played by Sidney Poitier) in the 1967 movie “In the Heat of the Night.”

While investigating a murder investigation in a small Mississippi town, Tibbs, an African-American detective from Philadelphia, is asked by the racist sheriff what people in his hometown police force call him. With dignity and assertiveness, Tibbs responds, “They call me ‘Mister Tibbs!’”

It is a line that inspires, even demands, respect.

Respect is a cornerstone of Call Me MISTER, one that is seen as MISTERs receive the program’s signature black blazer upon graduation — and in the way MISTERs refer to each other as “Mister” in formal Call Me MISTER settings.

“Ultimately, our hope is for each MISTER to be self-assured and know himself, and to appreciate and understand the value of building relationships across traditional lines,” Holton said.

Other Call Me MISTER foundational concepts include ambassadorship, stewardship, personal growth and teacher efficacy. “And all of these things together pour into the most important tenet, servant-leadership,” which Holton describes as “living for more than yourself.”

Perhaps no one embodies servant-leadership more than Jeff Davis, former field director for Call Me MISTER, current assistant athletic director of football player relations, and 2001 recipient of Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life award.

All MISTERs continue to be challenged each time they recite the vision statement Davis penned, which includes the line, “A title is only important if one’s character and integrity dictate its use.”

The single MISTER who rises to that challenge most valiantly receives the Jeff Davis Spirit Award, one of the most coveted honors bestowed annually upon a MISTER.

According to Clemson junior Michael Miller, a MISTER from Orangeburg and 2014 recipient of the Jeff Davis Spirit Award, servant-leadership has been the key to his Call Me MISTER education.

“My viewpoint about education has changed from ‘What can I tell you or dictate to you?’ to ‘What can I do for you?’” he said.

“I want to be an educator rather than a teacher,” he continued. “A teacher delivers content, and that is important. The word ‘educator’ comes from the Latin word educe, which means to draw from within. That’s what I try to do with my students — to pull out what is already within them. Call Me MISTER has taught me how to do that.”

Melanie Kieve is the public information director for the College of Health, Education, and Human Development and the Eugene T. Moore School of Education.

To learn more about Call Me MISTER director Roy Jones, click here.

Are Fireflies Vanishing?

Clemson team recruits citizens scientists to answer the question.

In the liturgy of a late spring night, the call and response of a tree frog chorus accompanied the fireflies’ ethereal light, as a guard let in a dozen people to the Cooper Library to launch a “flash” mob.

It was the May 31 kickoff for 2014 Clemson Firefly Count, part of a project investigating the question, “Are fireflies vanishing?”

Over the summer, firefly census takers would count lightning bugs for the fifth year in a row. New technology was being used, and the Vanishing Firefly Project team of scientists and students was keeping their fingers crossed that it would work without a hitch.

The count this year included new and improved mobile apps, software to view the count in progress and social media to get the word out. The work spanned the University, calling on talents of entomologists, environmental and computer scientists and science educators.

Computer science senior Joshua Hull hunched over his laptop, checking the computer network that collected observers’ tallies and displayed their locations. He also had upgraded one of two mobile apps people used to “phone” in their counts.

“I feel like my mother must have felt when she dropped me off at college,” Hull said. “She had prepared me the best she could, and it was time to let me go into the real world. But I’m not going to cry like she did.”

Hull paused, scanning a new screen load of data. “Unless things go bad, then I might cry.”

By the end of the evening, Hull was smiling, not crying.

Firefly project

NOSTALGIA+SCIENCE

Are fireflies disappearing? A lot of folks say so. They remember summers when children dashed and darted through the dark holding an empty jelly jar in one hand and its lid poked with nail holes in the other in pursuit of the greenish glow. Triumphant young whoops of capture and the bittersweet release “bye-bye firefly” are not heard so much today.

Joshua Hull

Joshua Hull

Nostalgia needed to be buttressed by science, and so the Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project began. It was started by a scientist who had not seen a firefly until he was an adult, and then became enchanted by the blinking little lights in the night.

“My family had not yet come from California, so I was working late,” said Alex Chow, an associate professor stationed at Clemson’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Coastal Ecology and Forestry in Georgetown. “As I walked from my office to the dorm, I saw these lights in the woods, and I didn’t know what they were.”

Chow grew up in Hong Kong, where he never saw fireflies. During his first southern summer in 2008, Chow enjoyed the light show. The next year, he did not see as many fireflies. His curiosity was piqued.

“We had done some prescribed burning, and I wondered if it had affected the fireflies,” Chow said. A biogeochemist, Chow studies how land disturbances such as fires, flooding or timbercutting, affect soil and water chemistry. He could imagine a relationship between firefly abundance and changes in their habitat. Chow decided to do an observational study looking for the effect of human activities on firefly populations. But Chow wasn’t a firefly guy.

Alex Chow

Alex Chow

“I needed an entomologist,” he said.

Chow searched the Clemson faculty and found one in Florence, which was closer to him than Clemson. But there was a problem.

“I didn’t know anything about fireflies, but I was willing to learn,” said Juang Horng “JC” Chong, stationed at the the Pee Dee Research and Education Center. Chong specializes in controlling insects that harm ornamental plants and turfgrass. Landscape plants and grass are multimillion-dollar industries in South Carolina.

Chong reviewed firefly studies and found that nothing had been done to learn about fireflies in South Carolina since the 1960s.

With so much to do on a spare-time project, the researchers had to be committed. Are fireflies worth the work?

“Absolutely,” said Chong. “Fireflies may not be endangered, but they are an indicator of environmental conditions. Just as important, fireflies affect our feelings about the future. What kind of world are passing on to our kids? I want my children to see fireflies like I did growing up in Malaysia.”

That Chow did not see fireflies growing up and Chong did see them lights the way to understanding what fireflies can show us about the environment. In Chong’s Malaysia, the fireflies that flash synchronously in large groups in the mangroves near Kuala Selangor are an international tourist attraction. In South Carolina, fireflies in the Congaree National Park swamp glow en masse, too.

Water or moist areas is one key to a robust firefly population. Another is tall grasses, bushes and trees. But perhaps the most important element is darkness.

Chow’s Hong Kong is a nightmare for fireflies. The bright white lights of a big city make it virtually impossible for one firefly to see another’s flashes. And the glow is not simply an ornamental taillight, but the medium by which the fireflies communicate about safety, food and sex. Light pollution prevents the signals from being seen.

Add the concrete and asphalt landscape of urban living and the malls and lawns of the suburbs, and it’s not hard to believe firefly numbers are declining.

But are they really vanishing, or is it just that many of us now live in places where fireflies do not flourish?

A CRACKERJACK TEAM

Chow and Chong needed help counting fireflies. They didn’t have the time or resources to sample beyond Georgetown, so the scientists turned to the public, launching a citizen-science project. The researchers also needed to enlist experts who could help them. Chow sent emails and made phone calls and began to assemble a crackerjack team.

David White was the first onboard, coordinating the computer work. Director of environmental informatics for Clemson’s Cyberinstiute for Technology and Information, White developed the firefly webpages and mapping programs.

In 2009, the tallies were recorded on paper, and researchers would enter the data online. Then White installed a Web page form in 2010 that observers could use directly via computer. Chow, Chong and White knew what was needed to make the process easier.

There had to be an app for that.

So Chow made calls.

“I was at a conference three years ago in Raleigh when my cellphone rang — it was Dr. Chow,” said Roy Pargas. “He introduced himself and said he was involved in counting fireflies.”

Firefly Project viewPargas is an associate professor in human-centered computing. He teaches courses in mobile app design and development — Apple IOS in the fall and Android in the spring. Students have to put theory to use.

“Students can work alone or in groups, but theyall have to do projects that produce a benefit — help students learn, help faculty teach, help Clemson in some way,” said Pargas. “Dr. Chow’s project was a good fit. I mentioned it to my Apple class.”

A student volunteered immediately. Doug Edmonson developed the iPhone app, continuing to work with the firefly project until he graduated. Josh Hull took over from Edmonson, seeing the app through its latest version in the Apple online store. New for 2014 was an Android app done by Greg Edison (“my dad is Tom but no relation to the inventor”). Edison installed a nifty feature, a light meter that lets the user measure the level of ambient light, which may correlate to the number of fireflies seen.

BRIDGING THE GAP

While it would be years before there would enough observation data to determine the fate of fireflies, Chow and Chong were seeing something notable, and they sought to publish their findings.

“We wanted to write up what we were learning about citizen-participation science research,” said Chow. “But we were out of our depth — I do soil, JC does insects. We needed somebody in education.”

Chow again asked around, and Joe Culin, an associate dean and entomologist in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, suggested a collaborator.

“I knew right away I wanted to work with them,” said Michelle Cook, associate professor of education. “Fireflies offer a way to help people learn about who scientists are and how they work.”

Cook’s specialty is science education, a hot topic in the national conversation about what students need to know in order to succeed. Science depends on creativity and figuring things out. Cook advocates adding more inquiry activities that teach and encourage students to work out experiments, using the scientific method, which relies on accurate and repeatable data.

Cook and doctoral student Renee Lyons analyze survey results from firefly counters who volunteer to answer online questions. A number of firefly counters see their efforts as helping scientists. Some believe that the count can have an impact on environmental concern, but other are unconvinced that there is a link between human activities and environmental problems. Overwhelmingly, people surveyed enjoyed participating.

“It helps build a bridge between scientists and the public,” said Cook. “People get to know and talk with scientists, connecting to their work.” The bridge helps people not only develop a positive attitude about science but also helps encourage kids to try science.

MISSION CONTROL

This year, Lori Tanner joined the project as well. Tanner is part of the Clemson IT ivision and runs the Digital Learning Resource center, where firefly mission control set up in the library. The center looked like a high-tech movie set with projections of stunningly sharp digital images, maps and displays of Internet chatter about the firefly project.

Tanner is a specialist in social media — the buzz of the digital communities populating the Internet. Weeks ahead of time, Tanner and recent biosystems engineering graduate Devin Schultze kept the web-based world informed about preparations for the count and how to participate. Well more than 40,000 people were reached digitally.

Firefly Project TweetIn previous years, older people were the largest group of firefly counters. The 2014 counters in their late 20s to mid 30s comprised the larger group, a shift Lyons attributes to an increased use of social media.

By the end of the May kickoff night, nearly 500 people had reported firefly counts. Two months later, it had risen to more than 3,095 — one from Italy. They had reported seeing more than 62,400 fireflies.

Firefly APPThe Vanishing Firefly Project is on the glow.

Additional resources:
The New York Times article about the Vanishing Firefly Project.

CBS Sunday Morning recently produced a story about synchronous fireflies in Tennessee.

Power Ahead

Clemson is now home to one of the world’s largest and most capable electrical grid simulators. Thanks to the work of Clemson graduate and eGRID creator Curtiss Fox, one day, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and more will do even more to make things go.

When the lights flicker, we barely notice. Our homes stay warm. Our laptops switch to battery backup. Maybe an old clock radio needs a reset, but otherwise life goes on uninterrupted.

In the world of distributed-energy production, however, even a momentary disruption in power can be a big deal.

Whether it’s something as small as a voltage fluctuation (think: a squirrel in a transformer or a tree falling on a power line) or something as significant as a cyber attack on the power grid, knowing how the next generation of energy will respond to these disruptions matters — a lot.

That’s where Curtiss Fox of the Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI) comes in. The work he and his team are doing today at the University’s Energy Innovation Center on its grid simulator will forever change the way we power our nation, and even our world.

The Duke Energy eGRID has been under construction at Clemson’s Charleston-based testing facility since the first of this year, shortly after Fox was named director of operations. Assembly wrapped up on the eGRID this spring, and the summer months will be spent essentially turning the equipment on in preparation for the center’s first customer: a private company affiliated with the energy industry. Although the proverbial switch has yet to be flipped, the eGRID project has been four years in the making, with Fox at the helm since the very beginning — first as a Ph.D. student and now as director of operations. It’s no wonder the prospect of making the simulator come to life, likely sometime this fall, is so thrilling for Fox.

“This,” he offers enthusiastically, “is when you really start making the equipment perform.”

J. Curtiss Fox receiving his doctoral (2013) degree in electrical engineering from Clemson.

J. Curtiss Fox receiving his doctoral (2013) degree in electrical engineering from Clemson.

FOX RECEIVED HIS PH.D. IN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING in December 2013, but his work on the eGRID project dates back to May 2010. At that time, the Department of Energy had just awarded a grant to the drivetrain facility so that it could conduct mechanical testing of wind turbines by constructing two wind turbine dynamometers: one 7.5 megawatts, one 15 megawatts.

The Department of Energy grant had a specific purpose: to allow Clemson to perform Highly Accelerated Life Tests on wind turbines — in layman’s terms, the tests are designed to simulate extreme events, those outside the turbine’s normal operating range, to see how they respond. These tests are important before the turbines are deployed to the field for obvious reasons, namely to prevent equipment failures and avoid expensive replacements on the highly technical equipment.

About the time the grant was awarded, Fox’s longtime Clemson adviser, Randy Collins, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Science and professor of electrical and computer engineering, attended a presentation about the then-proposed wind turbine drivetrain testing facility. Collins spoke with Energy Innovation Center facility director and senior scientist, Nick Rigas, and learned about an electrical diagram of the proposed facility. On that diagram, there was a box. But no one quite knew what type of equipment was going to go into the box.

Collins mentioned to Rigas that he had a grad student who could look into that for him. A few weeks later, Fox drove to Charleston. He met Rigas. He landed the job: grad assistant at CURI. Fox’s main objective was to figure out what kind of electrical equipment went into the box. He also was charged with designing power-flow studies and studying the transient response of the electrical equipment within the facility.

The rest is history, or the future — as the case may be.

THE BOX HAD A NAME, if not a specific function: LVRT equipment. It turns out it was actually an addition to the wind turbine facility’s electrical system. It wasn’t until after the grant was awarded that the Department of Energy came back to Clemson and asked if the University could also look at working an electrical test into what was otherwise mechanical testing of the wind turbine drivetrains.

The answer, thanks to Fox, was “yes.” That box was right in his wheelhouse. Low Voltage Ride-Through, or LVRT, is the ability of electrical equipment to keep working even when there are brief disturbances in the power system — something like lightning strikes, fallen trees or even animals on the power lines. When the lights flicker or short out, it’s because the flow of electricity has been disrupted. Fox had been pursuing a thesis on the subject, and now he had an opportunity to give it real-world application.

So, Fox developed a grid simulator to troubleshoot these kinds of power interruptions and reduce the risks that those in the energy industry worry about as they try to integrate new technologies into the electrical grid.

Since then, Fox’s work to bring this capability to the Energy Innovation Center has introduced a world-class, advanced testing platform capable of modeling grid conditions anywhere in the world.

The grid simulator is a center for innovation, where energy efficiency, energy storage and smart-grid technologies can be developed, tested and certified before they are rolled out for the mass marketplace. All the while, the project has been an opportunity to educate industry about power systems engineering and to show them how it could impact their future workforces.

“THE QUESTION THAT ARISES IS, ‘How do we go about integrating the renewable, distributed, new-generation storage energy equipment into the existing infrastructure, such that you can offset costs associated with upgrading the infrastructure?’” Fox explains of his work at CURI.

Think of it like this: Say you have a power line feeding a neighborhood, and then a developer decides to build again, and the neighborhood doubles in size. “They would either need to install another power line or rebuild it with bigger equipment,” Fox explains.

“But what if they could come in and install energy storage and not have to rebuild that power line?” Fox asks. “They could defer an upgrade, or avoid having to put in a whole new power line, by simply placing newer, more efficient equipment in existing locations.”

That’s exactly the kind of technology Fox’s grid simulator works to troubleshoot, something that is of great interest to utility companies, energy equipment manufacturers and national energy officials, among others. Specifically, the eGRID houses equipment that facilitates testing of the three key renewable energy technologies: energy storage, wind turbine energy and large, utility-scale solar energy.

It is this third and final component of the testing facility, a Photovoltaic (PV) Array Simulator, that is the most recent innovation moving Clemson to the forefront of the alternative energy field. Clemson’s PV Array Simulator — which essentially combines several acres of solar panels designed to capture energy from the sun into a small box — is scheduled to come online this fall, and when it does, it will be the largest such simulator in the world. It will also make Clemson’s grid simulator the only one in the world capable of testing all three of the key renewable-energy technologies.

The $98 million testing facility has been funded by a $45 million Department of Energy grant, and matched with $53 million of public and private funds. The eGRID represents another $12 million on top of that. It’s truly pioneering technology, something officials at the highest levels of government have taken notice of, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman.

“Developing America’s vast renewable energy resources is an important part of the Energy Department’s ‘all-of-the-above’ strategy to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future,” Poneman offers. “The Clemson testing facility represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry — helping to make sure the best, most efficient wind energy technologies are developed and manufactured in the United States.”

J. Curtiss Fox (right) chats with U.S. Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman at the dedication of the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center.

J. Curtiss Fox (right) chats with U.S. Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman at the dedication of the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center.

LAST YEAR FOX AND HIS COLLEAGUES FILED A U.S. PATENT on the grid simulator while he also successfully defended his dissertation on Low Voltage Ride-Through technology. The grid simulator project is now a separate, Department of Energy-sponsored project supported in large measure by corporate partners including Duke Energy and SCANA.

“The energy industry is a growing and changing industry,” offers Kevin Marsh, chairman and chief executive officer of SCANA Corporation, the parent company of SCE&G, a key partner in the project. “It is important for the private sector to work with public partners such as the U.S. Department of Energy and Clemson University to address the opportunities and challenges that face our industry.”

It’s Fox’s past collaboration that bodes so well for the future of the electrical grid.

“As a student, I was allowed to collaborate directly with industry,” Fox says in retrospect. “These projects are only a steppingstone for the research and innovation that will be needed for the grid of the future. I hope to continue to contribute to those efforts.”

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