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Author: Christy Sterner, Technical Manager, Bioenergy Technologies Office 

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How ATEC leads the way toward educating the next generation of bioeconomy professionals.

The Algae Technology Educational Consortium (ATEC) is a collaboration between the Algae Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Together, these organizations have created many widely accessible workforce development and training opportunities in algae.

ATEC's Support of the Algae Industry through Education

A strain of algae growing in a reactor developed by NREL.

A strain of algae growing in a reactor developed by NREL. Photo courtesy of ATEC.

ATEC originated in 2015 to support high-quality jobs in the U.S. workforce due to the potential of algal biomass as a sustainable feedstock source for the development of bio-based products, fuel, feed, and foods.

ATEC is currently in the fifth year of a $2.55 million grant from BETO. ATEC's goals are to produce:

  • Novel educational courses for grades K-12
  • Certificate and degree programs in algal cultivation and biotechnology.

These educational opportunities enhance the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skill set of students, aquaculturists, farmers, biotechnicians, and others interested in advancing their education to enable career pathways in the algae industry while helping to strengthen the bioeconomy workforce.

Specific ATEC programming includes:

1. Algae Academy

ATEC’s K-12 Algae STEM Initiative educates and excites students on the power of algae as a promising solution for several issues facing our global community. Through education, students learn practical algal farming applications. The curriculum module includes five days of age-specific algae STEM lessons.

Algae Academy students.

Algae Academy students. Photo courtesy of ATEC.

2. ATEC in Community Colleges and Universities

ATEC’s flagship programming involves community colleges and universities nationwide that provide or will provide algal cultivation and biotechnology certificates and degrees. Program graduates learn practical farming and biotechnology applications to enhance skills for the algae industry workforce. Examples of certificates and degrees are as follows:

Some of the Algae Technology Educational Consortium’s first graduates celebrate receiving their algal certificates from the Santa Fe Community College, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Santa Fe Community College.

Some of ATEC’s first graduates celebrate receiving their algae cultivation certificates from the Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). Photo courtesy of SFCC.

3. Algae Cultivation Extension Short-Course (ACES)

ACES, an extension/outreach component of ATEC, is divided into two parts: macroalgae and microalgae. Part 1 covers macroalgae (seaweed) and is designed for those already in the aquaculture/shellfish industry seeking to learn new skills. Part 2 covers microalgae cultivation.

Register for ACES Part 1: Macroalgae and ACES Part 2: Microalgae.

4. Introduction to Algae Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

The “Introduction to Algae” MOOC brings together algae experts from industry and academia. Participants explore the vast diversity of current commercial algae use. Register for Introduction to Algae MOOC.

A second algae MOOC, “Introduction to Microalgae Biotechnology,” is expected to launch this year. A third algae MOOC, “Introduction to Seaweed Biotechnology,” is currently under development, and is scheduled for a 2021–2022 release.

Additional Information about ATEC and Careers in Algae

These initiatives bolster the algae industry by training today’s students to enter tomorrow’s workforce. Explore career possibilities in algae.

Visit ATEC's homepage for more information.

Christy Sterner
Christy Sterner is a Technology Manager for the Advanced Algal Systems Program in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO).
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