Heritage Magazine: Community Partnerships Benefit Cities And Counties
July 11, 2023
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd
Powering a Community Need
A need for students to gain hands-on experience while supporting a community need can often be the perfect formula for an Academic Community Engagement course at Sam Houston State University. This was the realization College of Science & Engineering Technology professors Reg Pecen and Keith Coogler had for a solar powered canopy system at the City of Huntsville Aquatic Center that they and their students would design and build.
City management welcomed the collaboration. During hot summer days, residents needed shaded rest areas while they enjoyed water activities. The residents also needed easy access to electric outlets for charging their smartphones and other devices away from the sun.
With the city providing all the necessary material and parts, including solar PV panels, Engineering Technology students created sustainable charging stations for the center. Of course, with most real-life experiences, there were a few hitches along the way.
“Students faced difficulties on welding, precise joint cuttings and drilling of the metal frame. Permanent installation of the stations, placing grounding rods through the concrete base, were also challenges they experienced,” Pecen said.
The project included two separate designs of charging stations in different locations of the center.
“Students chose a common spot with maximum solar radiation exposure to place one of the stations in an open area of the center’s courtyard,” Pecen said. “They decided that location would be ideal since parents can comfortably sit under the shade, charge their small electronics devices and watch their kids in the water. The second location was selected at the southwest corner of the aquatic center.”
The stations provide zero emission sustainable charging as well as lighting for aquatic center staff and visitors.
“Introduction of renewable energy applications to engineering technology curriculum at SHSU has positively impacted students, faculty and the Huntsville community, indicating a promising outreach effort,” Pecen said. “The City of Huntsville paid all the cost and SHSU faculty and students provided service and opportunity for engaging in sustainable community work.”
Community Engaged: One Professor’s Story
One evening, as Bill Wells watched the news, a segment aired about the Houston Police Department’s backlog of unprocessed rape kits. As a professor and researcher within the Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice, he was interested and concerned. Wells immediately contacted his connection at HPD, offering his expertise and help.
This simple act eventually led to a mutually beneficial partnership to create a system that would clear the case backlog and prevent it from reoccurring.
“The problem had already been identified. Then you dig deeper, and you analyze the problem, understand all the moving parts, and then you lay out a path forward for responding to that problem based on what you learned,” Wells said. “We talked about all the data we would need to examine. We interviewed every sexual assault investigator, all the crime lab’s people that worked in DNA and a host of different stakeholders.”
Together, they worked to identify a solution to the problem while Wells assisted HPD in writing and securing a grant to fund the project. As a result of their work, HPD implemented systematic reforms, completed the testing of over 6,500 previously unsubmitted rape kits and reviewed the associated criminal cases.
The project was, in fact, so successful that it influenced a national model for solving similar issues in other jurisdictions.
To view the full Spring 2023 edition of Heritage Magazine, follow this link.
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