InSPIRE aims to make long-term impact with solar energy

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By Mike O’Neill, Staff Writer

During Welcome Week in August, thousands of students went to Quad Day to find the RSOs that were right for them. Booths ranged from club sports to professional fraternities, religious groups to social clubs.

As engineering students pushed through the swarms of people, they may have missed a small booth for a club called the Institute for Solar Photovoltaic Innovation, Research, and Edu-training (InSPIRE), situated right outside Lincoln Hall.

InSPIRE is a student organization with the goal of informing the community about the importance of using solar energy and renewable energy technology. They also encourage students to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math fields at a young age.

The group is most well-known for winning first place for their exhibit at the Engineering Open House last year. The students of InSPIRE used the open house to exhibit what they are doing to take advantage of renewable energy.

During the weekend of the open house, InSPIRE president Melissa Goetter accepted the Go Green Award from the Engineering Council for her organization’s exceptional practices of sustainability. She thinks it is important to educate people on the benefits of the alternatives to fossil fuels.

“We focus on outreach. We like to educate the public on green energy, specifically solar energy,” Goetter said. “We run workshops where we go to the (middle) schools and teach them about solar energy through building a solar powered cell phone charger, which they get to take home and use.”

Recently, the engineering RSO took on a project much larger than an individual green phone charger. Goetter, who is the final co-founding member of the organization still on campus, and her group want to provide the community with a fully sustainable, solar powered cell phone charging station.

“This is the biggest project we’ve taken on,” Goetter said. “It’s the first publicly funded project as well. The motivation behind it is to make a lasting impact. The goal is to continue to educate people about solar energy without us even having to be there.”

Goetter imagines that the charging station will be covered in educational panels that teach users about solar energy’s advantages. The station will also teach users how solar panels create energy.

Members of InSPIRE plan for their sustainable charging station to make a lasting impact years after they have moved on from Illinois. Goetter expects the project to near completion by the end of 2017.

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