Youngstown State University hosted the sixth annual Sustainable Energy Forum on Monday and Tuesday, drawing over 200 participants, including Rep. Tim Ryan, to Kilcawley Center for the event.
The forum shines a light on a variety of subjects relating to energy efficiency, ranging from natural gas and shale analysis to panel discussions concerning NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
The 2014 iteration of the forum focused on transforming Youngstown’s image from that of a steel town to that of a tech town, as well as discussions on the future of additive manufacturing and the oil and gas industry. Business and industry leaders, as well as students, academics and the general public were welcome to attend the event.
Ryan addressed the attendees on Youngstown’s changing reputation, arguing that rather than being looked at as an abandoned steel town, Youngstown has the ability to rebrand itself as a center of technology, should the public and private sectors work together to capitalize on the new industries.
One of the most promising new industries for the Mahoning Valley, additive manufacturing, was discussed at length at the forum, with Mike Hripko, Deputy Director of Workforce and Educational Outreach at America Makes, present as one of two representatives from America Makes.
Hripko, former YSU College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics director for economic development, is a Mahoning Valley native, and was quick to praise the changing perspectives of Valley residents.
“I think people nowadays are very receptive to the idea of Youngstown being a technology hub. It started with the Youngstown Business Incubator and YSU’s STEM College…and now you’ve got Siemen’s offering $440 million grants. That’s a major international corporation recognizing that good things are happening here,” Hripko said.
During his segment of the forum, Hripko argued that additive manufacturing should be seen as a sustainable industry rather than a more traditional, conventional industry. He illustrated his point by highlighting the energy and material savings additive manufacturing allows when compared to conventional manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing, sometimes referred to as 3-D printing, is a process by which digital models are used to produce physical, 3-D objects from a machine.
While the forum provides a venue for the exchange of ideas in sustainable energy and manufacturing technologies, one of the most immediate impacts it has is on the YSU campus.
“It brings people to campus who might not otherwise come…we’re getting people, business leaders and entrepreneurs onto the campus to really see what kind of things are going on here. I think it’s a great opportunity for the school to show off,” Hripko said.