Duke Energy Foundation awards $50,000 grant to MAE department

The Duke Energy Foundation has granted $50,000 to UF MAE, marking the second consecutive year that the department has received financial support from Duke. Much of the award will be used to provide, through the Duke Energy Scholar program, 16 scholarships of $2,000 each for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the Sustainable and Resilient Energy Engineering Certificate (SREEC) program.

“I am very thankful for Duke Energy sponsoring my graduate education,” said George Gonzalez, a student who received this scholarship last year. “I am proud and happy to say that Duke Energy is now part of my support system.”

The scholarships are specifically intended to motivate students, especially those from underrepresented communities, to work in renewable energy, to give them financial flexibility while doing so, and to create ample opportunities to study technologies relevant to the field.

“I will certainly pay it forward by developing my knowledge and skillset to become an excellent engineer,” Gonzalez said.

The original financial support UF MAE received from Duke was $100,000 in 2021, which was for the purpose of establishing the scholarship program

“Duke Energy is proud to provide continued support for the University of Florida’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering SREEC program,” said Melissa Seixas, president of Duke Energy Florida. “This support will help even more students gain the hands-on, essential skills needed to pursue energy and engineering careers and become the next generation of leaders and problem solvers.”

Seixas emphasized that this program will play a crucial role in fostering a clean and sustainable future for energy consumption in Florida.

“As technology advances and the state’s workforce needs evolve, there is an immense need for diverse leaders who are dedicated to building a cleaner, smarter energy future for Florida customers,” she said.

Professor Jonathan Scheffe said that the relationship between UF and Duke Energy is based on a shared vision of developing workplace-ready skills in students studying renewable energy, as well as a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in engineering.

“Overall, it’s a way for all of us to really take advantage and leverage all of the resources that we have to make a better educational experience for the students,” Scheffe said.

In addition to scholarships, this money will also go toward the establishment of a new energy sustainability, technology, and resiliency testing (e-START) hub at the UF Energy Park that will serve as a “living laboratory” for students and faculty, featuring PV-plus battery storage and interactive displays. Also at the Energy Park, the MAE department has used Duke-granted funds to install a solar energy tracker, the first of its kind in the southeastern US, that will log data to the ​​Measurement and Instrumentation Data Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Scheffe anticipates this collaboration continuing to be symbiotic, with students gaining an enhanced educational experience while UF produces talented and highly skilled potential employees for Duke and the renewable energy industry as a whole. “Eventually, I would like to see this partnership grow,” he said. “My hope is that we can establish a relationship such that the employees of Duke Energy, or potential future employees, can benefit from the educational experience here at the University of Florida. And also, the students that are here interested in energy-related technologies can benefit.”

Ben Crosbie
Marketing & Communications Student Assistant
UF Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
January 19, 2023