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Solar students John Glenn

Don Flournoy's students with former astronaut and U.S. senator John Glenn

Photo courtesy of: Don Flournoy

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Students to present research at International Space Conference in May


Ohio University students drawn across educational borders—from arts and sciences, engineering, and fine arts -- meet each week in Professor Don Flournoy's class titled MDIA 4901: Creative Visualization of Science and Technology.

At the end of May, the class will present animations to a professional audience at the annual International Space Development Conference, sponsored by the National Space Society, in San Diego. The class has spent the semester exploring the idea of space solar power.

Space solar power is the concept of acquiring energy from space and converting the sun's solar rays into alternative energy on earth.

"Space solar power is our most promising and most logical source of alternative energy," said Flournoy. "When sun's rays are converted to electricity they become our cleanest and most useful form of energy."

Throughout the semester students have heard from a variety of scientists and researchers about current energy issues and the role that space solar power can play to solve those issues. The final result is the creation of two videos.

The class is temporarily calling the first video "the five nation wireless transfer of power experiment."

The video outlines three main points: space solar power as a green alternative, the utilization of existing technology to beam electricity, and a call to arms for sites to beam energy.

"It's the first time it's ever been done," said assistant professor and Ohio University alumnus Kyle Perkins. "It's a really important thing to do because it can all be done with technology that exists right now. It's not a big, expensive thing. It's a very realistic first step."

The second video is about using reflected sun light to meet energy needs.

"The goal is to have reflector satellites in orbit that can take the sun's light and actually reflect that light on earth during the morning and evening hours," said Perkins.

He explained that during the morning and evening, the need for energy is at its peak across the nation, as people start their day and return home to consume more energy.

"This is when solar panels on earth are not very effective because there's not a lot of light. What this will do is literally extend morning and evening daylight hours at these locations," said Perkins.

Students in the class play a vital role in developing the animations that will illustrate these scientific concepts.

"We pull together their skill and talent to create the best project we can," said Perkins.

Sophomore geological science major Zoe Zeszut has enjoyed learning how science and media can interact.

"It's a very unique opportunity," said Zeszut. "It's been good to see how the industry for putting together a science informational video works because that's something I want to do for a possible career."

Students will first present their work at the Ohio University Research and Creativity Expo, which takes place on April 11 at the Convocation Center.

After the Expo, they will revise their work and prepare for San Diego. Once they arrive at the conference, the students will host a table in the exhibit hall, explain their work, and receive feedback from a panel of renowned scientists and engineers.

"It is quite an honor for graduate and undergraduate students in a highly technical field," said Flournoy. "What we are doing is combing in the skill sets of students and scientists to tell the story of energy in the environment."