Marine Energy Program

Data Access, Analytics, and Workforce Development

Project Name: Marine Energy STEM and Workforce Development

Project Team: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Lead Recipient Location: Golden, Colorado

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC) provides college students the opportunity to build real-world experience and professional connections that will help them land jobs in marine energy and the blue economy. Managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on behalf of DOE, MECC calls on participants to explore opportunities for marine energy technologies to benefit other existing maritime industries via real-world concept development experiences.

The 2021 MECC pitches and award ceremony took place as part of the virtual 2021 International Conference on Ocean Energy. During the closing plenary session, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman recognized the winners, and the team from Purdue University, which claimed first place overall, presented their winning concept.

The 17 teams that participated in the 2021 competition hailed from around the world, representing 12 U.S. states and several universities from Mexico. Since its inception in 2020, the MECC has engaged an estimated 480 students and 48 teams from 47 different institutions. These institutions have included one historically Black university, one community college, 14 U.S.-based minority-serving institutions, seven Hispanic-serving institutions, eight Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and 10 international or non-U.S. institutions.

In Fiscal Year 2021, the MECC introduced the Build & Test Challenge, which gave teams the opportunity to build and test a scaled model of their concept and present them to potential investors and future partners. Also this year, the competition organizers at NREL began establishing new partnerships with organizations that commit to helping the lab increase engagement, create networking opportunities for the students, and ensure MECC continues to engage diverse talents necessary for the future marine energy workforce. Initial partnerships include the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

A museum exhibit with models of marine energy devices. A large screen at the center of the exhibit displays animations of different marine energy technologies.

Resources from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s water power workforce development portals are on display in a public ocean energy exhibit at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium. Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium

Additionally, the Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) supports tools and resources to help students learn about marine energy technologies and potential career tracks, ensuring that training for tomorrow’s workforce begins today. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for Marine Energy Portal offers those interested in marine energy the resources they need to embark upon rewarding careers in this emerging field.

Some of the portal’s resources are featured in a public ocean energy exhibit at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium as part of a two-year collaboration between WPTO, NREL, and industry partner Ocean Power Technologies. The exhibit includes a large screen that displays a marine energy animation showing seven different marine energy technologies, among other educational and interactive displays. To celebrate the exhibit’s debut, Mystic Aquarium hosted a virtual tour and panel discussion, which included remarks from WPTO Director Jennifer Garson and industry leaders.

These efforts are part of WPTO’s support for STEM and workforce development programs that aim to recruit the best and brightest workers into the burgeoning marine energy industry.

Data Access, Analytics, and Workforce Development Projects