NSC Team Participates in 17th Annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

By Mandi Enger
On Saturday, May 5, 2012, Nevada State College administration, faculty, staff and students joined the southern Nevada community in the fight against breast cancer by participating in the 17th Annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. The group of nearly 30 participants from the college laced up their tennis shoes to show their support in both the one-mile fun run/walk and the 5K near the downtown Las Vegas Fremont Street Experience.
President Bart Patterson was the group’s captain and a participant in the 5K. It’s great to see the NSC team so motivated to take part in community events such as the Race for the Cure, said Patterson. We look forward to growing our presence and support of the event moving forward.
Susan G. Komen estimates that over 15,000 individuals participated in the May 5 race, fundraising over $225,000 for the organization. Event donations can still be made on behalf of the NSC team through May 31 here.
To learn more about Susan G. Komen in southern Nevada or how you may support breast cancer research, visit: http://komensouthernnevada.org/.

History students explore solar energy’s past by touring a modern day solar thermal plant

Students in a NSC history senior seminar conducted research for their final papers at a local solar power plant during a recent field trip. Accompanied by Peter La Chapelle, associate professor of history in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the students in the technology-themed capstone course travelled 12 miles south of Boulder City to visit One withthe task of comparing the modern plant to a solar thermal production plant that was constructed in Maadi, Egypt, in 1913 by American scientist Frank Shuman.
We are interested in finding out why a similar technology in Egypt was dismantled over 100 years ago, La Chapelle said. Throughout the semester, students have been researching the politics, marketing strategies and diplomacy that contributed to the disappearance and then reappearance of this technology.
Plant Manager Bob Cable welcomed approximately 15 students to the facility during the April field trip and led them on a tour of Nevada Solar One, the largest thermal solar plant built in the last 20 years. Cable started the presentation in the control room overlooking the field and then explained the process of how heat from the sun, concentrated and collected by large curved mirrors, is used to create electric power.
The parabolic concentrators, or structures containing the mirrors, adjust throughout the day to align with the sun. The heat of the sun is reflected by the curved mirrors towards tubes in the center holding a heat transfer fluid. By transmitting the captured heat in that fluid to water, steam is created which in turn runs a turbine to create electricity.
The sun heats the focal point to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and the heat transfer fluid rises to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, said Andy Kuniyuki, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences who joined the class for the tour. This process captures 70 percent of the input solar energy. The technology is simply fascinating.
As Cable continued the tour, students were directed down to the solar field to watch the movement of the mirrors up-close as they veered towards the sun.
It was interesting to take an in-depth look at the equipment at Nevada Solar One. One of the things we noticed was how similar the modern day equipment is to Shuman’s original 1913 plant in terms of basic design, La Chapelle said, after completing the tour.
The plant in 1913 was built in Egypt. However, it was funded largely by England and then Shuman used the plant to get money from Germany, said Chris Reed, a student focusing his research on the political implications that led to the demise of the original plant. Its closing was all about diplomacy, money and the politics surrounding World War I.
Our students made two significant findings: First of all, large deposits of oil were discovered around this time and, secondly, the war shifted attention to gasoline-powered technologies since it would certainly be impractical to power a tank with solar energy, La Chapelle said. This coupled with the Shuman’s death in 1918 and the loss of governmental support for solar energy meant that similar technologies were not significantly used or experimented with again until the 1980s.
As with Shuman’s plant in the early 1900s, solar technology will need to get to a point where the manufacturing costs are vastly reduced, or we many never experience a time when solar power is used exclusively, commented another student, Codi Lingenfelter. An important fact that I found throughout my research was that we do have the technology, what we need is the investors. If there was enough interest from the government on actual ways to benefit from renewable energy sources, the manufacturing costs would come down enough to make solar energy a reliable energy source for areas such as Nevada where there is an abundance of sunshine and empty desert to set up the facilities.
This semester students in the class, HIST 499: Senior Seminar in History, focused their papers on problem-solving history, taking up topics within the field of the history of technology that relate to some of the most pressing questions of the 21st century: access to water, conflict over energy resources, and the future of transportation.
Other groups in the class were assigned to research topics including the history of the Woods gasoline-electric hybrid car (1916-1917) and the history of walking machines (essentially attempts to build a wheel-less transportation from the nineteenth century to the present).
In addition to the field trip, students examined library resources such as journal articles and periodicals dating back to the period specific to their project.
For more information about NSC’s history degree program or HIST 499: Senior Seminar in History, visit the history department online or contact Dr. Peter La Chapelle by emailing Peter.LaChapelle@nsc.edu.

Environmental science students survey local lands with XRF Analyzer Gun

By Mandi Enger
Students in an environmental measurement and analysis course had a unique opportunity to test out an X-ray Fluorescence sample analyzer Gun (or XRF analyzer gun) during two field trips taken by the class during the spring 2012 semester. The hand-held device is commonly used in the field by environmental scientists surveying areas for heavy metal contamination. Visiting both the historic Nelson mining area and Three Kids Mine near Lake Las Vegas, the group of Nevada State College students examined old mine tailings for select pollutants such as lead, arsenic and cadmium.
Experience operating tools like the analyzer gun is integral for our students as they head toward their careers, stated Edwin Price, assistance professor of environmental science. The field trip locations we selected included local lands that are currently being processed for redevelopment work largely done by environmental scientists.
The Three Kids Mine area is slated to be transformed into a residential and business development once hazardous waste is properly removed or contained. The property was originally a manganese mine that closed in 1962.
Scientists working on similar projects often collect samples in the field that must be sent to the lab for full analysis. However, utilizing the XRF analyzer gun, they are able to cover more ground and collect larger amounts of data.
The device works by sending x-ray radiation into soil samples drawn from mine tailings, exciting the atoms in the samples. The atoms in turn give off their own radiation which the barrel of the gun detects and separates into different elements, telling the user what contaminates are present.
The data stored in the analyzer gun can then be downloaded to a computer and populated into an Excel database for further examination.
In conjunction with testing the XRF analyzer gun, our students learned procedures for its use defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Price continued. According to the national standards, samples must be collected and sent to the lab in addition to the data collected on-site for verification and calibration.
Data collected by students showed low traces of arsenic at both sites.
Price organized the two-week rental of the XRF analyzer gun for the class using funds collected through lab fees. 
This was the first time we’ve been able to offer this opportunity to our students and look forward to future experiences with advanced equipment and technology,” he concluded.