Ohio State Energy Partners grants support innovation
Awardees promote STEM education access, food waste composting
Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP), the university’s comprehensive energy management partnership, has announced 2023-24 grants for projects that advance access to STEM education for people with disabilities, expand food scrap composting on campus and measure the energy efficiency of solar panels, among other initiatives.
OSEP contributes $810,000 each year to the university or affiliated philanthropic causes that promote sustainable energy and environmental initiatives.
Grants include $50,000 to John Beacom, professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, to expand the reach and infrastructure of the SciAccess organization. SciAccess is an international nonprofit dedicated to advancing disability equity and access in STEM. The organization was founded by Ohio State graduate Anna Voelker, the recipient of Ohio State’s 2018 President’s Prize for students committed to social change and the Ohio State Alumni Association 2023 Diversity Champion Award.
“What we like to say is that the laws of science are universal, but access to science is not, and we want to be a part of helping to change that,” Beacom said. “The focus of SciAccess is on people with disabilities and expanding their access to science, both as something they participate in as a student or eventually as a working scientist or as just a member of the public who appreciates what’s happening in science.”
The OSEP grant will support the SciAccess annual conference, the organization’s monthly working group that brings together industry professionals to discuss accessibility issues in STEM, the Astro Access program that trains students with disabilities to become astronauts, and the Zenith Mentoring Program that engages students with vision impairments in astronomy and space science.
Beacom said the grant will also enable him to continue to work with Voelker and Ohio State graduate Caitlin O’Brien. O’Brien is a 2023 winner of the Ohio State President’s Buckeye Accelerator, which funds student startup ventures.
“What we’re trying to do in this particular grant is help unify these things and create a bunch of permanent resources on the web,” Beacom said. “And then also to help set up these different efforts to be more self-sustaining in the future by involving new generations of students in helping.”
Another $50,000 OSEP grant has been awarded to Mary Leciejewski, Zero Waste manager in the Office of Administration and Planning, to expand Ohio State’s food scrap compost program. In fiscal year 2023, the program expanded from 39 to 120 locations across campus and is now in all residence halls and dining locations.
“We also have opportunities for off-campus students, which is what this grant is specifically targeted for,” Leciejewski said. “They can sign up to get a bin at home and then use one of our seven drop-off locations on campus to divert their food scraps from their off-campus location.”
Also receiving a $50,000 OSEP grant is Kyle White, an Extension educator in Medina County, for the Solar Energy for Extension Research and Informing program.
The grant will fund the installation of solar panels on the new building that OSU Extension recently moved into in Medina County. The building is owned and operated by the county, which has authorized the solar panel installation, White said.
The goal is to “find out what kind of energy savings we can realize and use this as an opportunity to educate the public about what we’ve learned about installing solar panels on our building,” she said.
Once the solar panels have been installed, OSU Extension Medina County will collect data about the panels’ energy efficiency, White said. The data will help expand an existing solar energy curriculum that OSU Extension educator Eric Romick teaches to youth and begin offering the class to adults.
“We are hoping to inspire interest. We want people to be able to make an educated decision (about installing solar panels), so we’re going to share everything,” White said. “We’re going to learn as we go and put that into a curriculum for our community.”
Other OSEP grant award winners include:
$50,000 to Charlene Brenner, program director, Ohio State STEAM Factory, Ohio State Third Spaces Pilot Project: Phase 1 - Building a Foundation and Galvanizing Community-Centered Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Efforts in Academic-Adjacent Spaces.
$50,000 to Doug Jackson-Smith, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), Enhancing Ecological Services through Agroecosystem Management on the Wooster Campus.
$50,000 to Robin Bagley, College of Arts and Sciences, Ohio State Lima, Connecting Regenerative Farming and the Classroom at the Ohio State Lima Campus.
$50,000 to Lauren Koch, Wexner Medical Center, Reduce Scope 1 emissions through nitrous oxide leakage study.
$50,000 to Jeff Bielicki, College of Engineering, EmPOWERment Program.
$37,900 to Georgina Baronian, College of Engineering, Ambient Architecture.
$33,500 to Shawn Midlam-Mohler, College of Engineering, EcoCar Competition.
$32,800 to Michelle Wibbelsman, College of Arts and Sciences, Kawsay Ukhunchay Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Art and Cultural Artifacts Research Collection – Diversity Impact and Community Collaboration.
$22,325 to Inga Zadvinskis, College of Nursing, Improving Health Equity in Diverse Communities through a Personal Health Literacy Course.
$14,799 to Andy Vogel, College of Engineering, VR Explanation Center.
$14,344 to Laura Wagner, College of Arts and Sciences, Public Engagement and Peer Mentoring in a Museum Setting project.
$11,000 to Kristen Fussell, CFAES, Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory Solar Energy Dashboard.
$10,500 to Jaden Tatum, CFAES, Design Tool for Implementing Shallow Geothermal-Assisted Season Extension for Greenhouses on Campus and in Community.
$8,000 to Paul Berger, College of Engineering, Solar Do-It-Yourself Phone App.
$6,000 to Iyana Hill, College of Arts and Sciences, Black Health and Wellness Day.
$3,500 to Susan Melsop, College of Arts and Sciences, Design Activism, Mobile Pop-Up Engagement Stations for Sustainability.
In addition, OSEP supported the following projects this year:
The Arts Initiative, $175,000.
Wexner Center for the Arts, $25,000.
Battelle Center for Science, Engineering & Public Policy, $20,000.
Office of Outreach and Engagement (State Science Day), $20,000.
Hack OH/IO, $15,000.
STEM Collaborative, $15,000.