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Growing Georgian is providing nutritious sustainable food alternatives for students, including apples from the community garden.

Students across a variety of disciplines at Ontario's Georgian College are getting hands-on experience with how electric vehicles operate and their impact on renewable energy and the electrical power grid. The numerous projects focused on electric vehicles produce wide-ranging benefits: students are contributing to industry research to advance the technology and preparing themselves for future careers in the growing "green economy."

Georgian's foray into electric vehicle research arose from its long-standing specialties in both environmental and electricity technology programs. "It was a natural extension, as we were already working with the utility companies and they saw electric vehicles as the next big wave," says Kevin Weaver, vice-president, international, workforce development and partnerships.

Developing this expertise has further developed Georgian's educational and research credentials in sustainable technologies and practices of value to Canada's environmental, electrical and automotive sectors.

"Ultimately, our mission is to help our graduates find employment, and knowledge about emerging sustainable technologies is what employers are looking for," says Mr. Weaver. "We're working to produce graduates who are equipped to lead and innovate to move these industries forward."

Industry partners have been quick to invest in the research. At the Barrie Campus, Ford Motor Company of Canada and Barrie Ford have provided two leased electric vehicles, and PowerStream has sponsored a solar power-assisted charging station. Direct Energy has sponsored a solar power-assisted charging station at the Owen Sound Campus.

Students and researchers are investigating the vehicles' operations, while also collecting data on integration with the energy grid and the role that solar energy can play as a charging source, says Mr. Weaver. "One of the evolving areas of focus for industry is this vehicle-to-grid infrastructure. While we are not there yet, research we are conducting allows us to track what is happening in real time with vehicle charging and what the impact is on the grid – as well as how the solar energy is collected and used."

Georgian's strengths in environmental sustainability and related areas of study are also reflected in its extensive faculty experience in industry and its co-operative education offerings.

Student Avery Konda, 21, was certainly attracted to the college's sustainability leadership and dynamic co-op options. He is close to completing his three-year advanced diploma in environmental technology.

"Georgian is one of the leaders in Canada in terms of co-op opportunities, and that was a big draw for me," Mr. Konda explains. "And its unique focus on sustainability is right for me – given my passion for making environmental and other types of sustainability a priority in the business world."

He was able to undertake what's called an "entrepreneurial" co-op at the end of his second year, through which he launched an on-campus social enterprise called Growing Georgian, which he describes as "providing nutritious sustainable food alternatives for students." The enterprise continues at Georgian even though his co-op is complete.

"Developing a business plan and seeing success sparked my interest in being an entrepreneur focused on building sustainable businesses," Mr. Konda says.

This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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