Here is the text version of the webinar, “What’s New with the Algae Technology Educational Consortium,” presented in May 2021.
Erik Ringle, National Renewable Energy Laboratory:
Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, “What’s New with the Algae Technology Educational Consortium.” I’m Erik Ringle with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Before we get started, I’d like to go over a few housekeeping items so you know how you can participate in today's event.
During the webinar you will be in listen-only mode. You can select audio connection options to listen through your computer audio or dial into your phone. For the best connection we recommend calling in through a phone line. If you have technical difficulties or just need help today, you can use the chat section to reach me. The chat section appears as a comment bubble in your control panel. You may submit questions for our speakers today using the Q&A panel. If you are in full screen view, click the question mark icon located on the floating toolbar at the lower right side of your screen to open that panel. If you're in the split screen mode, the Q&A panel is already open and is located at the lower right side of your screen. You may send in your questions at any time during the presentation. We will collect these and address them during the Q&A session at the end. We are also recording this webinar. It will be posted on the Bioenergy Technologies Office website at a later date, along with these slides. Please see the URL provided on the screen here. Now a quick disclaimer before we begin: This webinar, including all audio and images of participants and presentation materials, may be recorded, saved, edited, distributed, used internally, posted on the U.S. Department of Energy's website or otherwise made publicly available. If you continue to access this webinar and provide such audio or image content, you consent to such use by or on behalf of DOE and the government for government purposes and acknowledge that you will not inspect or approve, or be compensated for, such use. All right, with that, I’d now like to turn things over to Justin Rickard to introduce our topic and our speaker today.
Justin Rickard, National Renewable Energy Laboratory:
Thanks, Erik. Can you hear me?
Yes, you sound great.
All right. Thank-you. And welcome, everybody. I am Justin Rickard with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Just a few things before we get started. This webinar is brought to you by the Bioenergy Communicators Working Group, also known as BioComms. This group is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office, also known as BETO. The BioComms working group includes bioenergy communicators, laboratory relationship managers, and education and workforce development professionals from the national labs and BETO who gather once a month to strategize on how we can effectively communicate and promote BETO-funded research and development to the public. BETO also provides the public the opportunity to learn about current and emerging bioenergy technologies projects and partnerships through monthly webinars, which brings me to our presentation today. Next slide, please.
Our speaker is Ike Levine, president and board chair of the Algae Foundation. Ike is a tenured professor of natural and applied science at the University of Southern Maine and the CEO of Algal Aquaculture Professionals LLC. Dr. Levine combines over 25 years of applied algal farming, cultivar enhancement, and new product development, with over 15 years of academic appointments, including the chemistry department at the University of Hawaii, the biology department at Duke University, and the biology department at Chaminade University. Ike has served as the CEO of Coastal Plantations International Inc., an algal farming, processing, and marketing company; CEO of PhycoGen Inc., a marine biotechnology company; and VP of Biological Services Inc., a bioscience laboratory and consulting services company. Ike received his master's at the University of South Florida's School of Marine Science under one of our country's last great naturalists, Dr. Harold J. Hum, and received his doctorate from the University of Hawaii Manoa, studying with the father of commercial algal farming, Dr. Maxwell Doty. Before I hand it over to Ike, I’d like to remind you that you can ask questions at any time during the presentation using the Q&A panel. We will collect these and try to address them during the Q&A a session at the end. All right, Ike, please take it away.
Ike Levine, University of Southern Maine and the Algae Foundation:
OK, well, thank-you very much, Justin, and thank-you for everybody who's in the audience today. And today's chat is not only about what's new with ATEC, or the Algae Technology Educational Consortium, but what has been, what's going on now, and what we hope to do in the future. And through our practice session, I had a wee bit extra time and so we're going to treat this as a celebration. And I’d like to thank the people along the way who have made ATEC possible and my ability to work through the Algae Foundation, and start off with the provost at the University of Southern Maine, my university, Jeannine Uzzi, whose vision allowed me the flexibility of working with the Algae Foundation for these past seven years. So that's the first thank-you. And if I should forget someone throughout the day, please accept my apology in advance. And of course, thanks to the BETO office for allowing me this opportunity to present on all things that are happening with this program. Next slide, please.
So the first question is why algae. That came up in the practice session. Why is it important? Why are we spending all this time, energy, and money on a group of photosynthetic organisms? Well, in the bottom right-hand side, we look at the impacts of algae, in terms of how it actually can play a significant role in the globe’s more than most of the significant challenges that we face today. In the upper left-hand side are some of the utilizations that algae can go through, from food, feeds, fuel, snacks, medicines, and also both as a fertilizer and a plant elicitor. So not only helping ag traditional agriculture do it better but also to conserve water and soil by growing algae. In the upper right-hand corner, that's the closest thing to my heart, because this was my company in the ‘90s as we farmed the Japanese delicacy Nori. It's finding sushi bars and the main Nori company produced the only domestic Nori in the history of the United States. So when people ask why algae, I would rather say why not algae? Or when we start off a lecture for young people, we say take a deep breath and take the algae. So let's go on and see if this presentation doesn’t answer the question why algae. Next slide, please.
So if you know this slide, then you know everything there is to know about ATEC and we don't have to go any further. But we start off with the vision that the BETO office had seven, eight years ago when we approached them with bioeconomy workforce development training. For the next explosion in algae farming and commercialization, where were the trained people going to come from? And so ATEC was born out of those early meetings with Jonathan Male. And in partnership with the Algae Foundation is the NREL, National Energy Renewable Lab, and Cindy Gerk is our program manager through NREL. And as you can see, we have two interest generators, the Algae Academy (that's our K-12 effort) and our Massive Open Online Courses or the algae MOOCs. And again, before we go any further everything that you see on the slide, all of the textbooks, all of the curriculum or the labs, lectures, and courses, are 100 percent free to the public. And it's amazing how many times I had to explain that free really meant free and that there were no costs. But so we're very pleased and proud of that fact. So in terms of our first interest generator, our K-12 effort, many things go out to Jake Nalley of Qualitas and Tiffany Cannis from Global Algae, along with Jesse Troller from Global Algae and Marissa Nalley, who's the program director and operations manager for the Algae Foundation. They lead our curriculum team and they've reached over 80,000 students over the last five years. Our Massive Open Online Courses, the first one was Intro to Algae MOOC, and the second one is Algae Biotechnology. They've reached over 20,000 people all around the globe. After that we moved further down in our collegiate curriculum. Our first offerings were through Santa Fe Community College in terms of algae cultivation in their farming certificate program. That was led by Luke Spangenberg, who unfortunately passed away this past year. Stephen Gomez, Ondine Frauenglass, and on the opposite side you see from Austin Community College our biotechnology degree program. That's a separate effort led by Linnea Fletcher, Purni Maral, and from the University of Texas at Austin, Schonna Manning. And so we have assembled a massive group of volunteers, consultants, academics, community college instructors, national labbers, who have joined this effort. And in putting together all these really diverse groups of curriculum. And in the middle you see ACES, the Algae Cultivation Extension short courses. This was put together with Jeff Flindland, ex-professor of extension at Rutgers and the past president of the U.S. Aquaculture Society. And our last effort that transcends all of these are our micro-credentialing badging program. And we'll go into that. And what's the output of that? And the output of ATEC is not jobs. We create no jobs. But what we do create is the trained workforce to be employment-ready to move forward in a successful way. Quick anecdote: When I had the largest algae farm in the history of the United States in the ‘90s, 50 percent, 50 percent of everyone we hired didn't make it to the following Monday. Can you imagine how much wasted time went into training people where the following week they wouldn't be there? ATEC prevents that from happening. The second thing with that we didn't anticipate is the fact that our programs lead to entrepreneurial efforts. In fact, not only do they lead to entrepreneurial efforts, but the entrepreneurs and now who used to be our students are now hiring our new students. So we're very pleased about that. Next, please.
I’m going to start with the Algae Academy, a five-day curriculum for K-12. And here on the left you see both the vessels where the students and staff grow algae in their window windowsills, and you can see on the right-hand side these are the Tupperware kits that we mail out to the individual classrooms around the country. On the lower left, you can see some of the supplies that go in it, along with algae. And then on the sort of the bottom center, you can just see a smattering of the young people involved who are taking the K-12 effort in school. We did – and thanks to Jake and Marissa Nalley this past year, who took the summer and volunteered to recreate or create a pivot to online that really helped us during the reality for COVID. All of this is free to both the schools and the teachers. And the applications for next years were of course completed the academic year 2020-2021. Applications will be available through our website towards the end of next month.
This is a relatively busy slide, but we have lots of information to cover. So again, the main part is looking at the growth pattern of the Algae Academy for the last five years, starting in San Diego in a middle school. And you can see how we've rapidly expanded. This past year of course you could see our first dip, and that of course was due to the uncertainty of COVID. But this would have been much more drastic reduction if we hadn't transitioned to developing online. In the upper left-hand corner, the red dots (hopefully they are colored right), but the red dots are the schools that have adopted the Algae Academy, and the green squares represent our collegiate partnerships throughout the country. We have just started to do qualitative and quantitative analysis of the value of our outputs. Originally our keeping score was just number of participants, number of schools, etcetera. But now we're looking for how we are actually doing. And you can see the significant increase in both knowledge of algae before and after taking it and interest in algae before and after taking this week-long training. And so significantly increasing both knowledge and interest for our K-12 people. Next slide.
And other opportunities that we get for outreach. This was right before we shut down in terms of our face-to-face meetings. We try to meet twice a year, and in March of 2020 we coincided our ATEC meeting with the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering. One day at Petco Park where the San Diego Padres play baseball, they opened it up to the public and they had 25,000 people coming on by. And we had almost a triple booth. And we had hands-on learning, as you can see here. Some fun and then but also some take-home minikits and we gave away upwards of a thousand of them for students to try to attempt to grow algae in their home. And it was just a lot of fun. Yes it was. The feedback was fantastic. And so these types of outreach are also part of our K-12 program. Next one, please.
So in terms of how do we help the teachers develop and prepare to offer this in their class, most teachers across the country don't have experience with algae. And we've originally trained them via online webinars and online opportunities. But here we developed at the University of Southern Maine, who sponsored the first SASI, or Summer Algae Science Institute, for teachers – and back then it was teachers and students in the summer of 2018. And from that success where we trained 18 teachers – and that following year that represented 1,800 students in Maine who got the K-12 offering. Right after that occurred, Jake and I wrote a grant and it was funded by the USDA to take the SASI trainings nationally. And so you can see on the map in the lower section where our, from the original and the northeast, from the University of Southern Maine Lewiston campus, we are stretching across the country. We've modified the training from five days for teachers and students to a two-day professional workshop. It's better reception from the teachers, and they're able to get the professional development credits, which we pay for, and is another teacher inducement to come for the training. Next, please.
And just to show you how things are growing, we have now started to recruit, besides the Algae Academy K-12 effort, ATEC itself besides its community college and university partners, are taking on specialized high schools as part of their team. Here we have in California the James Enochs High School, who has a pretty brisk forensic and biotechnology center and they have embraced algae. And so we welcome them aboard. Next one, please.
And this is even a little bit closer to my heart. This is Waianae High School in Hawaii. On the lower left-hand corner you see ogo or gracilaria current epithelia, which was part of my dissertation to repopulate the reefs with ogo for Oahu and Morocco. Waianae has taken – for the last 25-30 years has been developing these tanks and this aquatic center to grow fish, but more to grow the ogo and sell it in the local markets where it's between five and seven dollars a pound wet weight. And they've been growing the same vegetative strain for over 25 years and they've developed a wee bit of fatigue, cultivar fatigue, along with some epiphytes and some disease problems. And they've reached out to us, and in partnership with Windward Community College, which is an ATEC member, we're going to be going over there and helping them to revitalize this effort. And in in teaching them both entrepreneurialism plus the science and art of being ogo farmers. Next, please.
And now we're going to look at our MOOCs. And we have two MOOCs in production or that have been published. MOOC 1, Intro to Algae MOOC, and MOOC 2, the Biotechnology. And Coursera.org is the platform for this. And you can see on the right-hand side how many new students each week have enrolled, and obviously on the right-hand side coinciding exactly with the COVID shutdown that we had over an eightfold increase in attendance. But you can see we've reached almost 20,000 students with – you know, you say what is the relevance? And the key, the biggest and clearest indication of relevance is 10 percent of those 20,000 students got a pay raise or promotion for taking our course. 10 percent of all the people that take our course. 43 percent receive a tangible career benefit; most likely that's they get professional development credit for taking the course. We have two more and one is in mid-production, Seaweed Biotechnology. The last one will be new products. But we've already decided to do a fifth MOOC and that will be HAVs, harmful algae. Next.
And so here are our academic partners at the community college and university level. The red are our new members, which came after our 2019 peer review, and the green circles are our more original or older members. We have some collaborating universities. And in pink – no, in purple we have our first foreign ATEC partnering school, and that's Incheon National University in Korea. And that's the hub of their seaweed industry. But in terms of our equity, diversity, and inclusion, it just so happens that our community colleges are already servicing underrepresented populations. As you can see here on the bottom, 40, 43 percent of all of our schools are designated Hispanic-serving institutions, 17 percent for Asian-Americans, Native Americans and so on and so on. And so we're very pleased and proud of that record. Next, please.
We're also part of BETO's education workforce development program. And they've promoted us both on the career exploration wheel and also given us our individual web page on their website, as you can see the link on the lower right-hand side. But as you notice in terms of how we disseminate the information, how do we get it out to the general public, well, we've had the classical publications and national and international presentations, but we've also developed as you can see multiple platforms of social media. And so not something I had any experience in, but Sheila Dillard of BETO and her entire team, once they got over the fact I was completely inexperienced and didn't know much about it, have really brought us forward. And as you can see we have over 5,000-some friends. Next, please.
And now we're gonna move on to our community college efforts. And again, the numbers are much smaller, you know, as compared to 20,000 with the MOOC and 80,000 with the Algae Academy. But here we have in terms of degree-seeking students over the past five years, 250 students have taken part in the al cultivation classes. Here we developed brand-new courses and a brand-new certificate program within the advanced applied agriculture. And we still are developing new curriculum as we speak. The newest sets will be heterotrophic cultivation of algae, and also to balance out the microcentric aspect of this degree with the seaweed curriculum. As you see here, most of these slides are from the indoor and outdoor labs at Santa Fe Community College. And on the right-hand side represents my favorite course, the plumbing and pumps course. And so it's not just the science but when you're out the field how do you fix things, how do you build things. Next slide, please.
And again, I apologize for a rather busy slide. But on the left is the official banner representing our certificate for algal cultivation, and in the applied science and controlled environment agriculture degree. On the right-hand side, another poster that Santa Fe has put together, trying to spread the word. But let's take a closer look at the center. On the top of it you see the closed photobioreactor and the open raceway ponds. This is their outdoor living laboratory. But they were so entrepreneurial, Santa Fe Community College, that they built a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse that attracted new businesses, as you can see here Apogee, and they're also hiring our students and also taking them on as interns. So it is a positive loop that just supports itself in getting bigger and growing faster. Next one, please.
And the curriculum for the certificate are listed here. Everything above pumps and motors including pumps and motors are the new courses that we've developed in partnership with Santa Fe Community College and Steve Gomez and Dean Franglais and Luke Spangenberg. And we're very proud of the fact that they were all in-person lecture and lab. And over the last two and a half years we have converted these to not only lecture and lab in person but separated the courses so the lecture course would be online and then the laboratory will be intensive lab courses in person on the Santa Fe campus. But again, you run into challenges that you never believe. In going online, Intro to Algae Cultivation had a remarkable recruitment of international students. I think upwards of 50. And it turns out, which we didn't know, you need a visa. Even if you're in Afghanistan or France or China or Argentina and you want to take an online course in the United States, you have to have a visa, which of course that didn't happen. And so we're working diligently to figure out how to reconfigure this to perhaps a non-credit course to allow our international students to participate.
Yeah, this is a tough slide, and I apologize for this one. On the left in blue are our learning outcomes and skill sets. And why are these important? Because these are the end product assets that each of our students will have. And how do we know they're valuable? Because our industrial advisory board tells us that they are. And so in their review of our ongoing learning outcomes, they say what's new, what we need to add, what is obsolete. And the beauty of these courses is they are adjustable on the fly. And again, that's a testament to the team, the curriculum, development volunteers, and the instructors. And this program works because of their vision and their dedication. And on the top are the different courses that are involved in the certificate program, and the little lectures just indicate which class offers which of the learning outcome. Next, please.
So now we're going to shift to algae biotechnology. This was a much different effort, a completely different effort. (Although the slide seems to be a wee bit corrupted. I apologize; we're getting half of the last slide with this slide. But if you can ignore the bars on the top and just look at the bottom.) Instead of creating new classes, what we did create were insertable laboratories and lectures. And on the right-hand side is the cover of the first lab book. We call it the laboratory primer. And in it we create the curriculum and laboratories that will be inserted in each of five introductory biotechnology courses, because if you're extracting a protein from a bacterium and from an algae, it's reasonably close. Now there's some nuances, of course, in the cell wall, document procedures. But we didn't need to recreate new classes. All we needed to do is develop a working knowledge with algae as compared to the other target organisms of yeast, bacteria, and mammalian cell lines. So we developed both this primer. We also developed two one-credit intensive lab courses. And lastly, what we did is to assist in the offering of these complex laboratories. We developed IGSOPs, or image guided standard operating procedures. These are unbelievably valuable tools for the instructors. And you'll see a smattering of that upcoming slide. But what we did add here is Kalani Maitra from Fresno State. And the reason we did hers, and we have many anecdotes and feedback from our instructors, is the fact that this came from the university. We hadn't planned to target universities, and yet the universities are approaching us to take some of our biotechnology curricula and insert it into their classes. Next slide.
And so these are for Austin Community College. And it differs from college to college. These are the introductory classes of which we take one to two weeks in and embed our algal-based laboratories. And the big shout-out to Austin Community College and Linnea Fletcher is she adopted algae. In Austin, Texas, there are not a lot of algae companies. And so basically the big question that a chair or dean or provost asks are if we adopt this technology where are the jobs? That's the first question I get when I when I speak to academic administrators. Where's the jobs? And so we really couldn't tell them right away, you know, you're gonna have a hundred new algal-based biotechnology jobs in Austin. But when the external biotechnology board reviewed the curriculum and realized that the learning was richer and deeper, because it wasn't based in already premade kits, that there was basic, more basic science to our efforts, they embraced it. And in fact they unanimously endorsed the inclusion of algal-based biotechnology curriculum into the Austin Community College degree program. So we're very proud of that. Next one, please.
And so these are just some of the curricula that's based in those two one-credit independent intensive lab courses. We are building another one for genetically modifying algae. And so again, these are valuable assets for deeper, richer, student-directed learning. Next one, please.
And here is a smattering of examples of our IGSOPs. And you can see, originally we were going to do videotaping of the nuances of the laboratory, but we could get deeper, we can get more specific, using this method. And so the instructor can go through it before taking it to their students and to work out the bugs, because not everybody has the same reagents, not everybody – you know, we found that serial dilutions were a challenge to some of the students. And so again we're able to find where the glitches are and trying to minimize frustration and lack of success. And the beauty of it is we have Schonna Manning, the director of research from Mutex, the University of Texas culture collection, she's on standby to work with all of our biotechnology instructors, helping them through these nuances to minimize the time. Not wasted time, because again, there's a lot of learning from mistakes. But giving these assets the ability to work through them. Next, please.
And this takes us to our micro-credentialing digital badging program. And this was the vision of Luke Spangenberg, a giant and a massive loss, a massive loss for the ATEC family, and we still feel it every day. And this was his vision about developing a tool for candidates for jobs that they could walk into an employer and just hand over their sheet of digital badges, where the employer can go right on a national database, look up what skill sets are confirmed and certified that this candidate has already proven. Unbelievably valuable, but it also gives the students, because there are skill sets, skills for each of these badges, that they can go on the Acclaim website and just click on, and up will pop what jobs need those skills, where they're located, how much they pay, and what companies are involved. And in fact, coincidentally, when we went up in front of the Algae Biomass Organization for national endorsement of these algal-based digital badges, they said, well, show us how that works. And I clicked on one skill and up popped the numbers of jobs and numbers of companies. And three of the board members in that seminar, their companies were listed for hiring people. And so it couldn’t have been a better selling job than anything I could have said. And of course, we were fortunate enough in July of 2019 to get their unanimous endorsement. Next, please.
And so our last part of our original effort is our extension effort. This is an asynchronous online. It's geared for people who are already aquaculturists – maybe they're catfish farmers, shrimpers in Maine and in Alaska, maybe they're already shellfish farmers – for another form of agronomy, another income stream. And so we developed first seaweeds and then part two was in microalgae. And we've been amazed, and I’ve been saying 45 countries for so long, we actually went back into the database and compared the two, and as you can see for seaweeds we have over 1,100 participants in 57 countries. In terms of the microalgae, only less than 700, but it's a newer course from 42 countries. But when you put those two lists together we have reached 66 different countries around the world represented by all continents except for Africa. Next, please.
And so I was asked if I could mention what is our relationship with national organizations. In our recruiting of schools, and we've been at 700 great schools. We're in over 20, 25 three colleges and colleges and universities. But we're finding wholesale recruitment is so much more efficient. And through Innovate Bio, the national center based at Austin Community, where they organize every community college that offers a biotechnology degree, we've offered webinars through them and from that got referrals for new schools. The NSTA provides an amazing platform for the 40,000 science teachers of America. We have had a booth. We've given seminars at the national meetings and some of their regional meetings. Unfortunately the last two were cancelled due to COVID. But we will hopefully start up next year with them. And we're just able to announce, since we signed the contracts two days ago, a grant from the USDA to assist in developing a formal relationship with Future Farmers of America and their 8,500 chapters in over 750,000 grades, I believe, seventh through 12th students, to bring algae as part of the new add to their memberships. And so again, the USDA has been a real supporter of ATEC in terms of assisting us with nationalizing the SASI program and also now with this new rural farming aspect of the ATEC program. Next, please.
And in terms of what are our collaborations of partnership with federal agencies, as you can see here we've expanded from our original Department of Energy effort for two awards, modest awards but two awards. But we have two pending much larger asks through the DOD, a six-million-dollar to assist their STEM educational program, and also as part of a much larger consortium for new kelp farming technologies. It's very exciting. They asked us to come aboard to run the education portion of this grant, and that represents a two-million-dollar grant portion for the Algae Foundation and ATEC. Next, please.
Well, the next four slides are reasonably new, and you know, we're terribly pleased being algae lifers and being science geeks that we're now considered cool, because algae is cool. All right, OK, we're cool. But how do we build on being cool? And like social media, I have been let's say pulled into the 21st century. The same with using gaming science to transform STEM learning. And so we have put together a team between Brigham Young University and University of Southern Maine and private gaming companies, and we will be building, as you can see here, seven different kinds of gaming opportunities to really take advantage of a set of pedagogies that have been shown in the last 15, 20 years to be immensely valuable in terms of reaching young people. Next, please.
And here although kind of a dry slide, and we hope to get rid of dryness as part of it, on the top you see the seven different forms of gaming that we're going to pick up, from a physical tabletop game through using Minecraft.edu to creating our own algae simulations. And that's tremendously exciting, because the simulations are going to be using ATP3 and BETO data sets. So these are actual data sets that will be part of it. But we'll be doing virtual reality tours, both indoors and outdoors with some of our drones we have been developing. It is very exciting. And on the left-hand side of course, these are the next-generation science standards that we will be looking at. And so gaming will help us truly expand our NGSS efforts, and we're very, very pleased. The receptivity of that has been tremendous. Next, please.
And so again, having to rely on our team of gaming experts, we've given them a charge. And one of their first aspect was to develop access to Minecraft. It turns out there are 400 million users and a tremendous amount of federal ecological studies on the effect of this, as you can see here, in terms of the skills that are needed in creativity, collaboration, problem solving. These are big-time STEM-based efforts and we hope to tap in to this wealth of participants. And we couldn't be more pleased. Next.
And although, as you can see here, there are board games and simulation games already in existence. If they can make growing tea exciting, we can make algae – you know, maybe the next Marvel movie, you know, superhero made of, who knows. But in terms of educators, they couldn't be more pleased with our progress on this effort.
And in terms of simulation, you've seen this picture before. This is Santa Fe Community College's outdoor lab. But again, we're going to be able to allow our students to use real-world data and either in-person or virtual learning labs to combine these tubes, to really develop both the art and science of cultivating algae, harvesting it, product development, forming a company. This is good stuff. And again, who would have thought seven years ago that this is where we were going? And so the beauty, again, is the vision and the energy of the ATEC team. And so I couldn't be more proud of the ATEC family for again, another new chapter. Two years ago it was badging; now it's the gamification of algae. Who knows what we're going to come up with in two years. Next, please.
And so as we wrap it up, this was sort of borrowed from our peer review slide. But what's the impact? You know, we've reached our goal, and someone wanted to ask me, five, six, seven years ago, what's the goal? It's just 100 students? A thousand students? So I just threw out there a hundred thousand students. And you can imagine the snickering that we got. And I am proud, I am pleased, I am so tickled that of the success of our team, that two-year – well, actually closer to 18 months, earlier than the end of the ATEC funding – we've reached our goal of a hundred thousand students, actually about 102,000 students. We've reached over 700 public schools. We've over 20, 25 universities, community colleges, and colleges. We're in 66 countries. We pivoted with COVID and we really didn't lose our target audience due to this just horrific pandemic. We are now shifting to more national collaborations to expand our outreach and create efforts that have much larger returns on time and investment. Now we have a dedicated DENI officer. And someone asked me, you know, they look at the demographics. We are – as many of our schools are for serving veterans well, Native Americans well, and in fact we'll be translating our curriculum both into Spanish and indigenous languages. But our diversity is not the issue, but our economic diversity is an issue. And I really didn't catch this at first, because even though we provide everything for our K-12, we don't provide the microscopes. And not every school has scopes in classrooms. And so microscopes can be reasonably expensive. So the foundation is now actively trying to put together an equipment fund so we can mitigate economic barriers to adopting our program. So we are very sensitive in both internally to the foundation and externally for our grant programs in including the ability to mitigate economic barriers. So I think that that may be it for now. Next slide.
Well, this is the thank-you slide. And so again, our board of directors – I mean, these are people who don't need the Algae Foundation. This is, the Algae Foundation needs these professionals. Tiffany Cannis, vice-president of Global Algae. Jonathan Male used to be the head of BETO. Greg Mitchell from Scripps Institute. Phil Pienkos, formerly of NREL now of Polaris. Jacob Nalley, the head agronomist at Qualitas South. Jesse Trailer, also a specialist from Global Algae. I mean, we have been blessed with just titans of our industry to volunteer. The University of Southern Maine, for both sponsoring our first SASI and allowing me the flexibility. But also at the heart of it is our industrial advisory board. And again, you look at the companies that are there, both seaweed and microalgae, both national and international. We could not do this without the global community thinking that algae education, workforce development is special, it's appropriate, it's essential for expanding the bioeconomy. And thank goodness that BETO recognized that seven years ago and funded us. And Christy Sterner, our program director at BETO, has been our biggest challenger and our biggest supporter in keeping us on straight and narrow. And you know, with our eye on the prize. And again the ATEC family. We've had everything that a family has. We've had marriages and divorces. We've had births. We’ve had a lot of births. But unfortunately, we've had some passings. People come and people go. But it is the greatest pleasure and privilege that I’ve had to work with these people at every level, and hope to continue in the future. So thank-you very much. And we've got almost – it's a miracle to end early. People who know me, sometimes I talk an extra hour or two. So we'll open it up for questions. And happy to chat.
All right, thank-you, Ike. That was an excellent overview of the Algae Technology Educational Consortium. I particularly like the statistic that 10 percent of people that take the course have received a pay raise or a promotion. That shows the positive impact of algal education and training. OK, now we'd like to do some Q&A. I’d like to turn it over to Stephanie Byham, stakeholder engagement lead at the Bioenergy Technologies Office, to run the Q&A portion of this webinar. All right, Stephanie, you there?
Stephanie Byham, Bioenergy Technologies Office:
I sure am; can you hear me?
OK, great. Thank-you, Justin, and thank-you so much, Ike. That was super great. As always, the more I learn about ATEC the more I want to learn about ATEC, and I’m not the only one. So we received questions via the chat function and I also have a couple I’m asking myself. So let's get started. Right off the bat for you personally, what excites you most about ATEC?
Well, hopefully, from my voice you can gauge the enthusiasm of working with the team that we've assembled. But I guess I get letters and emails – well, I get emails – from around the country and around the world thanking ATEC and the foundation for the ability to learn about algae. We just had a heartbreaking letter just the other day from India, letting us know, of course, that there are oxygen shortages, and can they grow algae that might help local micro-environmental situations where oxygen is a shortage. And so I mean, you get those kind of questions. You're reaching a large audience. And so it's really remarkable. So I’d have to say it's the feedback for the people who take the course.
OK, that is very sweet. You mentioned earlier the need for international students to have visas in order to take some of the accredited courses. so I was just wondering what are some of the other big challenges that you've had to overcome while increasing the breadth of your program?
Well, the first one, especially in the beginning before we had such a nice track record, deans, provosts, presidents, would say, where are the jobs? So many jobs? And if I couldn't show them the jobs and show them jobs within 20 miles of the campus they didn't want to talk to me. And so the foundation put together a job survey and it showed a fair amount, around 12,000 jobs, that would be coming online or becoming available as the algae industry grew. That was some of it. But also the feedback from external advisory boards showing that our education, our hands-on, our not-kid-driven-cookbook biotechnology, had a deeper, richer learning curve to it and they liked that. And so those two things, the fact that there will be jobs and the fact that the learning is richer, if you get my drift, that started to overcome the challenges of the administrators.
Got it. So are there any myths about algae that you hear when you're giving talks that you would like to dispel now for our audience?
Well, first, of course, you know, we'd like to overcome young people who every time you start with algae, ‘it's yucky, it's slimy, it's smelly, and it kills all the fish.’ So trying to, yes, there are harmful algal blooms and there are algal toxins, yes, you know, no question about it. But algae from a world saver certainly has the potential to do so much good for the global community. That's the biggest myth we'd like to overcome.
OK, well, speaking of that, I would say, where do you see the algae industry moving in the next like five years, 10 years? Where do you think the industry will be?
Well, I think the algae industry both now when you talk about it – again, algae is a big word. Just like the word agriculture is a big word. You know, you could say you're a farmer, but the next question is what do you farm? You know, you could be a watermelon farmer or a corn farmer. You could be a banana farmer or you could be doing strawberries or beans or whatever. So algae is a big word, also. And so let's break it down into both microalgae and seaweeds. I think we're poised for some success. I mean, not some success but gigaton success. I think that the funding over the last eight years is coming to fruition from BETO and from some other federal agencies that have brought the technology to the cusp, where now we're just looking at the capital to build the thousand hectare farms. And I think that's a real reality in the next five to seven years. On the seaweed side, ARPA-E is about 10 years behind microalgae in terms of funding, but the first 30, 35 million for the Mariner program is now coming to fruition or coming to an end reasonably soon. And we're going to be able to gauge the reality of offshore gigaton scale seaweed farms. And that's a very exciting, very exciting potential opportunity.
Awesome, so we have a few questions from the audience, and two of them are related, so I’ll just ask them right in a row. We have on the line a professor in Columbia who would like to know if the algae kits are available to purchase. And then also just another question asking if the kits and supplies are free.
Well, in the United States I will – you know, in the beginning I said everything is free, free, free, free. In the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, everything is free, free, free, free, including the kits, including every year resupplying the kits, including sending fresh algae every year to every classroom that applies and gets accepted to the program. So I can't say it any better than that. Free. Nobody has paid the Algae Foundation for anything. Now, we do get some requests from overseas. And I have received the grant to spread the Algae Academy to the North Atlantic as part of the North Atlantic consortium. Again, everything – you know, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, the United States and Canada. And so we were developing a relationship with Iceland then when COVID came down we started with Norway and Sweden. So we will be able to fund those kits. The biggest challenge, of course, is shipping. So we can identify what supplies are necessary and get them locally sourced. One thing we haven't worked out is local sources for algae, because shipping algae cross-border is problematic, as it is sending it to Hawaii. And we have a local representative, Valerie Harmon, who grows our algae for us in partnership. So the K-12 kits that get to Hawaii have Hawaiian algae in them. But in terms of Colombia, have them write me. We really haven't gone to international distribution of the Algae Academy kits, but anything is possible.
That's true. No time like the present. So we have a couple technical questions here. One is, can algae be used to clean water?
Well, algae is a remarkable sponge. Algae has – just its physiology and having so many cells so close to the surface of, well, unicellular algae, the entire cell touches the medium. So it's always absorbing nitrogen and phosphorus and minerals. It's also absorbing heavy metals and dioxins and it also can absorb radioactivity. So algae is the perfect living sponge. Yes, it does clean water. We call that bio-remediation. And the ability of algae, whether microalgae or seaweeds, to be put in polluted waters and clean them up is one of the ecological services that are part of what algae can do for the human community.
OK, great. Could you talk a little bit about the learning outcomes for high school students and the courses offered?
Oh, certainly. In terms of – well, we have several different curriculum. We have curriculum for grade school. We have middle school. We have high school. And we have advanced placement. So each of the levels have in terms of next generation of science standards built on a theme. So for high school we have analytics, we have analysis, we have the biology, morphology, anatomy, physiology of the algae itself. So we have some math, we have some – the new gamification are going to have remote sensing, it's going to have programming, it's going to have – let's see, I had it written down earlier. The LS1, LS2, ESS3, and ETS, this is engineering designs, energy engineering technology, science, and society. We're going to be looking at molecular and organismal and also ecosystems and their interactions. So in terms of – we have a full gamut of the learning outcomes as coordinated with the NGSS.
Great. So here's a fun question. Somebody wants to know if you're familiar with NAA, the National Algal Association and Barry Cohen?
Just peripherally. An organization that was started, I guess, quite some time ago to support the entrepreneurial aspects of algae.
OK. And then also, might you happen to know off the top of your head what level of magnification is needed for the microscopes in the student kit?
That's a great question. Fortunately or unfortunately – not unfortunately, but the algae kits right now look at microalgae, so they're really small. And some of the things, some of the microalgae, are smaller than others. And nannochloropsis is one of them, and it's a pretty small one. And so you're looking at probably a minimum of 400x. It'd be great to have oil immersion and 1000x. But a minimum of 400x. But at 400 they just look like little green circles. So to open up the boredom of wow, look at that interesting little green circle, we had a sampling of diverse algae, because microalgae can be spectacularly beautiful in terms of prisms and centric diatoms and pinnate diatoms and dinoflagellates. They just will knock your socks off. And so at least 400x would be the minimum.
OK, 400x. OK, so we've got one more question, so perfect timing because we're right here at the end of the hour. Just to wrap it up, do you have numbers on how many ATEC certification-degree graduates have obtained jobs in the algae industry?
Well, everyone. One or two have left to get better jobs. And several – and this, again, was a surprise – several – I remember the community college two-year degree and most of the ones. And again, that was a big learning curve is the, you know, what's the focus? What's the intent of a community college student? I didn't know; as a university professor I didn't know. So the first couple of years that was our learning curve. And one of the things that were issues were confidence. Well, we had some graduate students come to Santa Fe and our community college students taught the graduate students how to grow algae. And from that realization that, hey, we're just as smart as they are, we started getting our two-year degree students getting full scholarships for four-year degrees. And now a couple of them have gone on for a master’s. So again, the entrepreneurial aspect of our graduates was a surprise, as is going for four-year and graduate degrees was a surprise. So in terms of how many people could get jobs if they wanted to go into algae, all of them.
All right, so if we could poll the audience, I guess I’d wonder how many people are considering a career change right now. But thank-you, thank-you so much, Ike. This was wonderful. We've come to the end of our hour, so I’m gonna turn it back over to Justin to see if he has any wrap-up.
All right, thanks, thanks, Steph. There were some questions that we didn't get to there and if you think of a question that you'd like to ask, please reach out to Ike, there's the general email here. It's email@example.com. Just address it to Ike Levine and it'll get to him. And we'd like to thank everybody for attending “What’s New with the Algae Technology Educational Consortium,” and thanks to our speaker, Ike Levine. Once available, the webinar recording will be uploaded to the BETO webinars page on energy.gov. The link is on this slide. And thanks, everybody. Have a great rest of your day.
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