There is a revolution going on, and Tesla Motors is gearing up for battle. The revolution is in sustainable energy, JB Straubel, chief technical officer for Tesla told a crowd of 500 who attended his Oct. 11 afternoon lecture at the University of Nevada, Reno's Joe Crowley Student Union.
A scaled-up version of the system used to power their electric cars, and now homes, might be the precursor to a sustainable grid powered exclusively by renewable energy in concert with high-powered battery storage systems.
At the center of the revolution is education.
"Education is the most powerful tool to go to solve these problems." he said. "Our programs are custom-tailored programs to build a real-world workforce - the most relevant as can be for the sustainable energy revolution - those coming into school now are the ones who will solve this in the future."
Straubel was on campus for the annual College of Engineering Distinguished Lecture Series. His talk offered important insights about the path toward internships and jobs with Tesla.
Straubel told the audience Tesla has many education initiatives in place. This includes internship programs, one of which included three University of Nevada, Reno students, which Tesla views as a valuable means by which to identify and hire future employees. Straubel announced the Oct. 11 launch of a new internship program for its gigafactory, under construction east of Sparks, Nev.
Tesla also is part of electric race car competitions, programs with technical and vocational schools, and programs with Truckee Meadows Community College and the Washoe County School District.
"How we relate to education is a critical key part to being successful in Nevada, the country and the world," Straubel said. "A tight connection to the community is important, and this makes the ties even stronger."
Straubel said the company offers a diverse, dense mix of jobs.
"There are opportunities, especially for grad school, we have a wide list of opportunities, not just one type of engineering," he said. "We need civil, chemical, mechanical engineers - almost every discipline."
College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis, the creator of the annual lecture series, said the growth generated by Tesla's investment in northern Nevada directly impacts the College of Engineering.
"It's important for students to know about and learn from innovative companies like Tesla," he said. "Tesla is about technology, it's about innovation, it's about entrepreneurship. And this is what the College of Engineering is all about. So we expect that engineering students, our graduates, will have a huge effect on the progress of the company and its success in our region."
Tesla is a game-changer for our economy, Maragakis said, and the college is evolving to meet the needs and challenges of regional and national economic development efforts.
One of the changes instituted by Maragakis is a new interdisciplinary minor degree based in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. The degree, Batteries and Energy Storage Technologies, is designed to meet the demands of the rapidly expanding industry, which requires highly educated individuals who understand the fundamentals of technology, assembly, manufacturing and troubleshooting of various battery systems and energy storage.
A new state-of-the-art battery technology teaching lab is set to open for engineering students in the spring semester. The lab gives students the opportunity to get hands on experience developing and testing new materials for battery components and related processes.
"The minor and lab will make it easier for students to get the knowledge needed for this industry," Dev Chidambaram, lab director and assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, said. "This will help them enter the workforce immediately after graduating."
Tesla has a very diverse workforce, Straubel said, with R&D teams, engineering teams, and materials handlers already working on production and manufacturing control systems at the Sparks Nev. gigafactory.
"It's an ecosystem of people, this isn't a remote-controlled satellite, it's a start-up in its own right," he said about the new gigafactory, one of the key elements and a test bed for their sustainable energy concepts.
Straubel said Tesla is looking for a seamless link from solar and wind power generation, through storage systems to get away from coal as a power source and then build up to grid-scale storage that can run entire cities and eliminate fossil fuels.
"Sustainable energy is this generation's moonshot," he said.
JB Straubel's lecture is available for viewing on the College of Engineering website at the News and Events webpages: http://www.unr.edu/engineering/news-and-events/news