Crowder alumnus returns to teach solar energy

Q&A with Joel Lamson

By Steve Chapman

What is your background in alternative energy?

My background in alternative energy started at Crowder (in 2001). I performed a web search of colleges that had a pre-engineering program and Crowder popped up as the closest. I signed up…and decided to add the Alternative Energies emphasis to my Associate of Science in Pre-engineering. After I graduated, I went on to the University of Missouri at Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology.

What inspired you to make a career in alternative energy?

I never thought about making solar a career, it was just something fun to do.

How long have you been an instructor with Crowder?

I started at Crowder Fall of 2009.

What brought you to Crowder?

My student experience at Crowder was the best experience of my life; especially the support and motivation I received from the solar, math, and science departments.

What alternative energy projects are you currently involved with?

I have been involved in the Neosho Fish Hatchery solar thermal project where I got to design a commercial scale solar thermal system. I have also been working on several other grants that involve training and teaching included the National Science Foundation, SEEDS grant where we are fitting a truck and trailer with solar, wind and biofuels technologies to travel to the nine county area to teach high school students alternative and renewable energy technologies.

What projects concerning solar energy have you been involved with in the past?

I was the student team leader, chief mechanic and lead driver of the SwiftSure of the 2001 Solar BikeRayce where we took 1st in class and 2nd overall with the SwiftSure. I was also the student team leader of the 2002 Solar Decathlon (solar house) Team and was the student project manager and project administrator for Rolla’s 2005 Solar Decathlon Team. I worked on the 2007 solar house as a team member to pass on my knowledge to another team member and designed and simulated their solar systems. I was also the advisor for Crowder’s Solar BikeRayce team in 2010 where the SwiftSure was 1st in class and 1st overall.

What is the MARET Center?

The MARET Center is the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology Center. The center itself is a LEED Platinum rated, net-positive building. LEED ratings combine energy efficiency, building materials, accessibility, how the structure impacts the local environment and other things into one rating. Platinum is the highest rating. Net-positive means the building will supply more power to the grid than it takes; this is done with the wind turbine and solar array.

How are you involved with the MARET Center?

I am the head of the solar department and only instructor. I am also the advisor of…Solar Green, (the) solar club.

What do you see as the future of alternative energy at Crowder?

We have lofty goals which include having . . . many different alternative and renewable energies hooked together using a ‘smart’ grid to power the campus and sell surplus energy to the utility. The purpose of this is to further develop these technologies to be implemented on a large scale.

What courses do you teach?

I teach Introduction to Energy, Solar Electric Systems, Solar Thermal Systems, Passive Solar Systems and Project in Solar Energy

Is Crowder competing in any competitions involving solar energy this year?


What coursework should a student wanting to get into the field of solar energy take?

Math and science. Math is important in any technical field. The key to making these technologies work is properly sizing and installing these systems and math is the key.

How do you enjoy spending your free time?

I enjoy mechanical, sequential movement puzzles (like a Rubik’s cube). They come in hundreds of variations of colors, shapes, bandaging, cuts, etc. I also enjoy the guitar where I have recently developed my own pattern theory including a minor seventh solo pattern.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

I would like to meet Neil Armstrong or Karl Pilkington. They interest me for different reasons. Both, like myself, value their privacy, so I would not want to impose myself on them for a meeting.

You once served in the Navy. What did you do during this time?

I entered the Navy solely for the G.I. Bill, which is an excellent program. I went in undesignated and was assigned (to) the weapons department. My division’s job was to assemble bombs and missiles below deck and send them up to the flight deck for flight crews to attach them to the jets. I was on the Nimitz aircraft carrier and we were in the Persian Gulf in 2003 to patrol the southern no-fly-zone in Iraq.

How far away do you think we are from a commercially-available solar-powered car?

A commercially-available solar-powered car is not practical. There is not enough area on the roof to run the car. A solar-powered hydrogen station that hydrolyzes water for use in an electric car, with hub motors, with a hydrogen fuel cell is practical, but not viable right now.