Bioenergy training launched with help from local professor
Every Wednesday, Bismarck State College (BSC) gets to claim Dr. Igathinathane Cannayen, North Dakota State University (NDSU) professor, as its resident biomass feedstock engineering expert. Through an agreement with the two educational institutions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N.D., Dr. Cannayen works one day a week at the BSC National Energy Center of Excellence and the remaining days of the workweek conducting research on North Dakota switchgrass in his Mandan lab. The goal of the partnership is to research whether the hardy native grass can be used as an energy crop, as well as develop educational materials.
Because of his expertise, Dr. Cannayen, assistant professor with NDSU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, was tapped to help develop course materials with a consortium of educational institutions located throughout the Midwest, including NDSU. The project was funded through a grant from the USDA for creating an educational initiative on alternative energy and sustainability.
What the consortium created was the Bioenergy Training Center, a comprehensive online learning tool that’s free to public. It’s divided into three courses, the first of which is now available and focused on bioenergy and sustainability. Each course is broken down into modules that contain a few chapters with a quiz at the end with answer key and explanations. Cannayen said that the goal was to make the content easy to understand by the general public.
“It’s very nice information in a very simple language,” Cannayen said. “And this information is authentic, because it was all developed by university professors who are experts in that field.”
Earlier this month, Dr. Cannayen attended a “train the trainer” workshop for the curriculum partners. It was held for the extension specialists that helped develop and review the materials. Now they need to spread the word that it’s available. The partners encourage its use by anyone and everyone for presentations, college coursework, or general curiosity.
“One great thing that I found [about this program] is in the whole bioenergy spectrum, I am working on one specific field – biomass preprocess engineering,” Cannayen said. “There are so many other things, like life-cycle analysis, water, land replacement, for example, that I don’t study. But when we go through this material, it is quite easy to grab the whole thing.”
Cannayen said that the University of Wisconsin Extension wrote the grant and won the funding. They then collaborated with professors and extension specialist from the partners, listed below (see the specific contributors here):
University of Illinois
Iowa State University
Kansas State University
Michigan State Extension
University of Minnesota
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
North Dakota State University
South Dakota State University
University of Wisconsin
eXtension Sustainable Agriculture Energy Community of Practice
Discover the Bioenergy Training – Modular Course Series here and see if you can pass the test.