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Purdue Attempting To Address Shortage Of Students In STEM Fields

Vivien Lai
Purdue University

The Purdue Energy Center is trying to address a shortage of students entering STEM disciplines.

Managing Director Dr. Pankaj Sharma says increasing the number and quality of these students is necessary if the United States is to be a world leader in the energy sector.

He says right now we have close to 7-billion people on the planet and that’s expected to increase to roughly 9-billion by 2050.

Sharma says that will dramatically increase the demand for energy, especially from developing countries such as India, Brazil, and many on the African continent.

"They'll have more disposable income," says Sharma, "and they'll want the same comforts of life. The same number of cars- a couple cars per family- air conditioning and so forth. All that is really going to impact the demand for energy."

Sharma says a secure energy future for the world requires solutions that come from researchers and experts in a variety of disciplines.

And he says while the focus is often on developing renewable energy sources, making more efficient use of current energy sources also needs to be addressed.

"Also there are challenges when you have sources of the energy located at one point and you need to transport the electricity from point A to point B," says Sharma. "There are a large amount of losses there. And these losses could even up to 50%. So we are wasting a lot of energy right now."

He says to address the shortage of students Purdue launched the Duke Energy Academy.

The program is in its third year.

Sharma says roughly 50 high school students and 30 teachers are spending the week on campus listening to lectures from industry leaders and participating in hands-on projects.

He says the goal is to give teachers resources to implement energy-related lessons in their classrooms and inspire students to enter STEM disciplines.