Erin Collins photo

Erin Collins, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of North Florida and is now pursuing a PhD at Oregon State University, recently received an $18,000 scholar award from the ARCS Foundation. Her ACRS sponsors are Julie and Bill Reiersgaard.

Given the high cost of attaining a PhD, Collins is thrilled to receive partial funding for her research, which will be paid out over a three-year period. “Money is a huge part of getting into grad school,” she said. “The ARCS Foundation wants you to get your PhD without stressing out — they are helping us to excel.” Collins also works as a teaching assistant at Oregon State.

Collins’ research aims to create a sustainable, practical anchoring and mooring system for wave energy devices. The type of device Collins is currently working on is called an oscillating water column. As a wave passes through the device, the change in air pressure turns a turbine and generates electricity. Large arrays of these devices constitute a power hub.

Some of the anchor devices in use today are as big as a two-story building, and the challenge is to make sure each device stays in place while remaining as noninvasive to the natural environment as possible. “These mooring systems can end up costing as much as the wave energy converters, so my project is designing a mooring system for a floating oscillating water column, which is a type of energy converter,” said Collins.

She chose her study area because sustainability is important to her. Although wave energy is a relatively new area of study, she believes that this green energy solution is the wave of the future and an answer to reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Collins believes that funding graduate study is a vital community service and she is extremely grateful to the ARCS Foundation for its valuable support. “If people worked to fund more research, more students would want to get into it,” she said. “People don’t think they can go to grad school because they don’t think it’s funded and they think they won’t be able to support themselves. The ARCS Foundation is amazing!”

Beyond providing financial support, the ARCS Foundation takes a personal interest in ARCS scholars and scholar alums. They meet with the students to learn more about their work, their challenges, and their successes. Many previous recipients of ARCS Foundation support have gone on to work for government agencies and corporations that advance science and technology in the United States.

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Chelsi Rayford contributed to this article.

Published Date: 
Wednesday, August 14, 2013