Campus Sustainability Spotlight

April Spotlight: Padnos College of Engineering & Computing


The mission of the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing is to prepare undergraduate and graduate students in engineering and computing to become accomplished professionals; to contribute to our professions through active scholarship in all of its forms; and to support the university and society with expertise, leadership, and service.  Recently recognized by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) as one of 29 institutions in the U.S. as an Exemplar of Real World Engineering Education by the National Academy of Engineering, the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing is committed to sustainability.

Opening in 2007, the John C. Kennedy Hall of Engineering became the third LEED Certified building on the Grand Valley State University campus (to learn more about LEED Certified buildings, click here).  The building connects the Keller Engineering Laboratories with the Eberhard Center all of which are located on the Grand River and overlook the city of Grand Rapids.  The Hall of Engineering boasts twenty-one labs, an electron microscope, a "clean room" for contaminant free nanotechnology work, and a laboratory to create circuit boards and robotic automation components.

With 97% of the construction material diverted from landfill to recycling, the Hall of Engineering focuses on water conservation, energy use reduction and indoor environmental quality.  Other sustainable features of the building include a 15,000 square-feet green roof and ice bank air conditioning.  First, the use of a green, or vegetated roof, offers many benefits ranging from the reduction of storm water runoff to the absorption of water by plants.  Also, the plants and growing medium provide an extra layer of insulation, which reduces the heating and cooling loads of the building.  Second, ice is used t cool air that runs through the building during peak loading periods during the day and at night, when there is less of a demand for cooling the system regenerates itself.

Internal Department Practices
The Padnos College of Engineering and Computing faculty and staff have committed to internal department sustainability in many ways, including:( 

-  Pre-orientation on communication and advising electronically (vs. paper).
-  Instructions on systems (Banner, etc.) via Youtube videos (these instructional and informational videos can be found here).
-  Student records kept electronically (changing from paper files).
-  Paperless web-based system to process students' requests for overrides. 
-  Paperless web-based system to process faculty's travel requests.

Teaching (Courses and Activities)

Faculty have integrated sustainability (related and focused) in to their teaching courses and activities.  A sample of some of the courses and activities that students have participated in are:

  • Urban Sustainability
  • Offshore Wind Technologies – In partnership with Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) and Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, this project seeks to quantify the wind energy potential in Lake Michigan to promote the use of renewable energy as well as the manufacturing and service jobs that are associated with such use.
  • Materials for Energy Storage
  • Hybrid Electric Battery System
  • MASL (Mobile Application & Systems Lab) Activities - Examples of the MASL activities are numerous. 
      -  In 2010, a Shop Social app was developed to let users scan Universal Product Codes to see reviews, videos and prices for given products, in addition to social media integration. 
      -  The Art at GVSU mobile app features tours, browse and search functions to more than 10,000 pieces of art in the university's collection.
      -  In an effort to save lives in a medical situation, engineering graduate students deigned a portable Photovoltaic Emergency Power System for a hospital in a rural part of the Southeastern African country of Malawi which was designed to kick on when the hospital loses power especially in the middle of a surgery.  In partnership with the Seidman College of Business, more students worked to create a medical mobile app that provides instructions to help midwives in Malawi and Haiti deliver babies without a doctor present.
      -  A mobile app was created providing people the best navigation routes for handicap accessibility on the Grand Valley campus. 
  • Information Systems Capstone – By providing technological support for various non-profit organizations, capstone students are able to relate classroom knowledge to real experience. 

Community Outreach
The Padnos College of Engineering and Computing has made sustainable community outreach partnerships essential to the mission of the college.  Some of the community outreach partnerships are:

  • Green House on Watson – With a commitment to teaching engineering design with a sense of environmental elegance and social responsibility, the School of Engineering, in partnership with multiple, local companies ranging from construction to window insulation, the Green House on Watson enables students to build and monitors data from LEED Certified homes. 
  • Home Insulation and Roofing Project – Multiple homes have benefitted from the expertise of engineering faculty and students who conduct energy efficiency audits.  The most recent example is the energy efficiency audit completed on the Wesley House near GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project on the Allendale campus.
  • Coit Elementary Projects
  • Other Way Ministries Food Pantry Project – Turning classroom knowledge in to real life experience, students are able to apply what they learned in Dr. Shirley Fleischmann’s heat transfer class when they installed insulation on a house owned by The Other Way Ministries. 
  • Mel Trotter Ministry Projects
  • Nicaragua Initiative
  • Mineta National Transit Research & MDOT Lithium Ion Batteries in Public Transit – This co-sponsored project is investigating possible applications for lithium-ion batteries after their life in moving vehicles is completed.  Such applications have to do with remanufacturing, repurposing, and recycling as opposed to disposal.
  • NSF MaCC/CAAT Batteries Grant – This project complements the preceding project.  In partnership with Muskegon Community College (CC), educational materials concerning Lithium Ion battery remanufacturing, repurposing, and recycling are being developed and used in courses at both Muskegon CC and Grand Valley.
  • Bio-Medical Devices
  • Lincoln Development Center Efforts
  • Barbie Jeep Project – With a Barbie Jeep found on Craigslist and a donated joystick from Airway Oxygen, two Engineering students were able to modify the vehicle for a two-year old girl with spina bifida to drive the pink Jeep. 
  • Lawn Mower Project – After a few years creating the project, students introduced a lawn mower with sip and puff technology, which allowed a quadriplegic individual to mow the lawn by puffing through a straw connect to a remote controller that controls the mower.
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Bubble Tower – Engineering faculty and students helped replace a 10 year old bubble tower, with new features such as increasing the circle’s diameter and entry and larger pulleys to enhance the learning experience.

Outreach and Pipeline Building Programs
In addition to the community outreach partnerships, the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing has multiple outreach and pipeline building programs, such as:

  • STEPS (Science, Technology, Engineering Preview Summer Camp) – Entering its second decade as a summer camp, STEPS is held early enough to influence a female students choice of math, science, and technical courses in middle and high school.  These courses help prepare them to enter and succeed in college-level programs.
  • MATHCOUNTS
  • FIRST Robotics – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics gather 41 teams of high school students from across the state to compete with robots they built and designed for the competition.  The competition helps students get hands-on experience solving real-world problems and discover excitement and rewards of science and technology careers.
  • Science Olympiad – GVSU recently hosted the Region 12 competition.  Science Olympiad is an international non-profit organization developed to improving the quality of science education, increasing student interest in science and providing recognition for outstanding achievement in science education by both students and teachers. 
  • Summer Robotics and Computing Camp, "Get With the Program" – This five-day camp at Grand Valley enables seventh and eighth grade female students learn about the growing fields of information systems and computing as part of a continuum of technology-based opportunities for female students interested in engineering and computing career.
  • Electric Car Workshop – Led by School of Engineering professors, the workshop invites high school students from West Michigan to learn how to build electric cars they will race in the National Electric Cart Association races at Berlin Raceway in the spring.
  • Hispanic Center Summer Programming Partnership – Sponsored by the Hispanic Center, the class emphasizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  With participation from GVSU and other local universities, professors are able to teach various natural phenomena relevant to the subjects they are studying.

Page last modified February 17, 2014