A new outlet for student energy under the Dome

Students celebrate grand opening of the MITEI Undergraduate Energy Commons.

Kelley Travers MITEI

After more than a year of planning and construction, the new Undergraduate Energy Commons was unveiled on Thursday, Oct. 6, to an energetic crowd of MIT students, faculty, and staff. “We’re really excited about this space as a way to provide convenient opportunities for undergraduates to get together — and to think together — about what you can do to change the world for the better,” said MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) Director Robert Armstrong as he welcomed the students who now have access to the commons.

“We really needed a space where students can come together,” said MITEI Education Director Antje Danielson, thanking the MIT community members who worked to make the commons a reality. “Now, energy students across all majors and disciplines will be able to gather, host events, and pursue shared projects to build a sense of community among energy undergraduates.”

After cutting the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the commons, sophomore Rebecca Eisenach, vice president of the Undergraduate Energy Club, said she looks forward to holding meetings there. “It will be valuable to get all of the energy students together,” she said.

“If we want to start a conversation about energy, then it can easily be started right here with people we feel are interested,” added Emmanuel Havugimana, an MIT freshman who participated in the 2016 MITEI energy-focused Freshman Pre-Orientation Program (FPOP). Havugimana and fellow FPOP student Anthony Hernandez both look forward to using the space to reconnect with others from the program.

Located underneath MIT’s iconic Great Dome in Room 10-063, the Energy Commons serves to both foster community and fill an educational need, featuring three small study/meeting rooms with conference tables and audiovisual equipment; open space for group work, meetings, and presentations; a student lounge area; and a kitchen. It is reserved for undergraduate students in energy, including energy studies minors, active members of the Undergraduate Energy Club, Energy FPOP participants, and students who have participated in the Energy Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

“Having a space like this, in this location, really signals to everyone on campus and off that energy is something that’s important, even for undergraduates,” said
Sam Shames ’14, who was instrumental in the planning and development of the commons and has gone on to co-found EMBR Labs. “I think that’s really exciting and I think this is going to be a great catalyst to help the energy community to continue to grow.”

Professor Amy Glasmeier, who co-chaired the Energy Education Task Force while the project was being developed, encouraged the students to take advantage of the space. “Dream up great ideas,” she said. “Enjoy it, and we will see great things from it.”

Funding for the renovation and furnishing of the Undergraduate Energy Commons was provided by a generous donation from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, which shares MITEI’s vision to build opportunities for multidisciplinary, applied learning in energy education at MIT.

This article appears in the issue of Energy Futures.


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