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Green Technology degree option available at PCC

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Starting this fall, Portland Community College’s Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology Program will offer a new option for students wanting a career in sustainable engineering.

Greg Gerstner, mechanical engineering instructor, inspects the bio diesel tank that creates fuel on campus from discarded cooking oil.

The program’s Green Technology and Sustainability Option, approved this spring by the state of Oregon, provides Mechanical and Civil Engineering Technology students with the skills to better prepare them to practice sustainable engineering. A student pursuing the Green Technology and Sustainability Option will take courses (Renewable Energy, Environmental Sociology and Introduction to Geographic Information Systems) that emphasize environmental skills.

In addition, students get hands-on work in several classes, including Environmental Quality, in which they perform lab tests for water quality and produce biodiesel from the waste oil from the Sylvania Campus cafeteria. All of these classes are required for a Civil or Mechanical Engineering Technology associate’s degree with a Green Technology and Sustainability Option, which is based at PCC’s Sylvania Campus (12000 S.W. 49th Ave.). Mechanical Engineering Technology graduates from this option can matriculate to Oregon Institute of Technology.

With the emphasis on green technology development in the American Recovery and Revitalization Act of 2009, the program’s faculty expects even a greater opportunity in the marketplace for its graduates in sustainability fields.

“We’re very excited about the Green Technology and Sustainability Option,” said Greg Gerstner, engineering instructor. “The three courses will not only add technical acumen, but will address the importance of environmental responsibility. Also, there will be living laboratory opportunities for students of this degree option.”

The program’s Industry Advisory Committee provides valuable advice that helps keep the curriculum up to date with current industry standards and practices. The committee includes practicing professionals from both the private and public sectors.

Greg Gerstner with the bio diesel tank.

“Business owners in today’s market are looking for employees who understand the impact of the projects they work on,” said committee member Maria Cahill of Green Girl Land Development Solutions. “Engineering in particular can vastly impact or improve the environment and a community’s ability to be healthy. Through PCC’s new sustainability option, students will be better prepared to use their engineering skills to create resilient communities.”

This isn’t the first green venture by the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology Program. Since the early 1990s, courses in thermodynamics, HVAC, energy production, energy management, equipment design and solar energy have been offered. In the 1980s, faculty worked on the design of the solar hot water system for the HT Building swimming pool. In 1995, they built a straw bale building with solar panels, which was a research project to demonstrate that this kind of construction was a practical method in Oregon’s damp climate. This solar lab facility still stands today and is off the grid. Tours are conducted often for PCC classes, academic groups and for the community.

“Over the years, instrumentation has been added, and two solar hot water systems are almost complete, so that the facility can be used to supplement our thermodynamics and fluid mechanics courses,” Gerstner added. “It’s just another way we are tying green and sustainable methods into our courses for the benefit of the community.”

For more information on the program, visit:

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »


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