Quotes from student reviews from previous years' programs:
From a Pitt State Student (Kansas):
"The learning curve for the program is very intense, my second day in Nebraska and I'm already erecting 80 foot wind turbines. The program is in essence sink or swim, you must be on the top of your game at all times to keep up with the rigorous demands of life at the farm. Not wasting anything that can be re-used and providing quality workmanship on commercial that must meet safety standards as well as serve the purpose they were designed to do.From a Colorado School of Mines and Technology student:
Before this summer I had never installed any type of renewable energy system, I was familiar with the way they operated from my previous research but you can never get the full scope of a project until you complete one from start to finish. I never through how much work was involved in installing even a simple solar array, from stansions to racking to concrete and wiring. All project bring new challenges and even more opportunities to learn. Living sustainably must be made through a conscious effort, and effort that takes time, hard work and dedication.
My time on the farm has blessed me with the opportunity to challenge my mind, body, soul and patience, something a traditional internship can't provide. The ability to see one's own labor bloom into the very things it was meant to be without the comforts and luxuries of normal living. In the words of Dave Dingman, 'Is it an experimental farm, or are we all experimental farmers?'"
"This summer was full of hands on experiences. I am very grateful for that. The variety of installations was wonderful. Not many people can say they have helped install a wind turbine, the largest roof top solar display in Nebraska, pole mounted solar panels, self- leveling roof top solar panels and helped fix the largest active tracking solar display in the Midwest. Each and every project taught me something new. I learned about tools, mounts, hardware, batteries, inverters, charge controllers and so much more! I really can't stress how much I learned in this internship. Hands on experience shine a whole new light on what I am learning at school.From a Syracuse Environmental Major:
I underestimated the work that goes into a farm. I knew farmers worked hard, but actually doing the work gave me a whole new appreciation for farmers and their families. Living on a farm has not only taught me a lot of physical skills but it taught me about myself. It took me out of my comfort zone, tested my limits and ultimately showed me that I can do so much more than I imagined."
"All of the knowledge that I have acquired could not have occurred without the influence and discussions of Robert and my fellow interns and I believe I too left my mark. I am very grateful for my first long term experience here in the Midwest as I have plans to return for graduate school. Knowing that I can survive, have fun and succeed in this area of the United States is exciting and motivating. Many people would much rather stay in the place they were born, something I would never recommend. Its experiences like this that help you find your balance. I believe that it's very easy to lose your balance in the midst of all of this knowledge and uncertainty but to lose balance in life is part of gaining that balance between the self and the others around you. People who are too afraid to see other people and places of the world are certainly at a loss.From a Bentley student of Managerial economics and Sustainibility:
Most importantly, I learned that even though I thought my willingness to learn was as vast as the plains of South Dakota, I realized that you never know as much as you will in the next season or the next year of your life. Every year my fires grows, I can feel it powering the rhythms of my heart, my soul and my mind. This year though, it has become evident to me that my fire is on the right path and I owe that knowledge to my Nebraska Experience and everything within it.
I learned more in my ten week visit to Nebraska than I had from over three years of college."
"Over the next few weeks while managing the farm and everything that entails we were given the opportunity to get elbow deep into some renewable energy projects. The team installed two 7 kW 30 panel arrays and a battery bank at a local farm. This included everything from mounting the frame, to installing the panels, wiring for the batteries and the motors, and much more. The team also got the opportunity to install two 2.4 kW SkyStream wind turbines at Little Priest Tribal College at the Winnebago Indian reservation. We assembled the blades and rotor and mounted them on the tower to be erected by a crane. That same day we went to the Pow Wow that was being held on the reservation. It was a really cool experience to be able to witness the culture of the Native Americans first hand. To see them sing and dance and perform in their Native garb was a real treat.From an Environmental Studies major from Ireland:
One of my favorite experiences during the internship program was the Nebraska Energy Fair where the team got to make a presentation about sustainable living options. The presentation covered renewable energy options that we use on our farm, waste and composting, bio-fuels, gardening and farming options, farmer's markets (where we sold our produce and mulberry jam all summer) and cooperatives, and rain water collection and use for gardening, livestock, and a solar shower that the team installed on the farm. The energy fair also included seminars held by Nebraska Senators, lawyers and grant writers from the Center for Rural Affairs and the USDA, and many more. It was a great networking opportunity that I wouldn't have expected when first entering the program.
Overall this experience has been a great adventure. I've pioneered outside of my comfort zone and discovered a new me. One who appreciates the wild power and beauty of nature and the serene effects of hard work on a farm. I've found that over the past two months I've spent a lot of time searching within myself for solutions to questions that can't be answered. I concluded that we don't change, we only learn. And if I've learned one thing out here in this little town of Lyons, Nebraska it is to live every day as if it were your first. To begin anew each morning with a positive outlook and purpose. To believe in yourself because you only get out what you put in."
"Overall I have had such a great time while here in Nebraska, I have learned more than I could have imagined in every possible sense. I'd like to imagine I'm leaving much wiser on all fronts, for using tool and machinery, to working with animals, to my overall goal which was to get a better understanding of how renewable energy works and how to harvest it endless potentials. I hope to use all of what I have learned and put it to use in my every day life. I know I'll be more aware of how I use power anymore, and will definitely be looking for a new hair dryer which doesn't require 1200watts and I'm sure I'll have fun driving my friends and family crazy with all my new facts and figures!"From a student from Arizona:
"I will miss the energy farm very much; not just the farm itself, but also the liveliness and responsibility that comes with living there. It is incredibly rewarding to live on an off-grid farm and grow your own food. The farm was bursting with life, and being surrounded by animals is one aspect I will miss the most. It was a unique and much needed experience that I could not have obtained anywhere else, and I am thankful for the opportunity. It really pays off to see things like the farm energy system in person, and often it is the only way to learn. I would love to return someday. I obtained great experience from working on residential and commercial energy surveys. I've come a long way, and I valued the confidence and trustworthiness placed on me to do my best job. I've gained so much understanding of building energy use and the spectrum of renewable energy options and energy-saving strategies that exist. The process of measuring energy consumption, analyzing the data, and then getting to see our work materialize into real plans and solutions was incredibly rewarding. It is a great way to make a difference, and I have no doubt that I will use this experience in my everyday life and career. I learned what I was expecting to learn about sustainable living and farming, but I also gained some unexpected insight into the incredible determination and physical and mental strength needed to make change in a world so resistant to change. The renewable energy field is not for the faint of heart. Many can agree that it makes good sense, but that does not mean it is easy by any means. I learned that many sacrifices are involved."From a SUNY student:
"I was a bit skeptical about moving to Nebraska for the summer to work on a renewable energy farm. That skepticism waned upon my arrival to the Midwest. From day one I until the day I left, living on the energy farm never failed to amaze me. I expected to learn a lot about different types of alternative energy. I got a lot more than I bargained for. Raising animals for food and energy and being disconnected from the electric grid made me more aware of how important it is for the future of our country to be more sustainable. It also made me more aware of how capable we are as a nation to harness and use renewable energy. My goal for this summer's internship was to prepare myself for a job related to alternative energy. Now that I am graduated from college and have completed this internship, I feel much more confident in my ability to succeed in the business. I have gained a very broad range of knowledge pertaining to all aspects of alternative energy. The internship gave me much more confidence about going into interviews."From A Penn State student from Brooklyn:
"Growing up, I never dreamed of ever seeing Nebraska. I never really dreamed of seeing anywhere until college. I took this internship as a way to follow my dream and see the world, which is exactly what the internship proved good for. Before coming to Nebraska to interview for this position, I was more sheltered than I could have imagined. I had never even been in a different time zone! This summer I learned a lot, not only about renewable energy, but also about small town life. Added to my list of "firsts" was having a tab at the local grocery store, eating homegrown food and taking care of livestock. Having never done so many of the things offered in the Midwest helped make living on a farm outside of a small town somewhat exciting. Living off-grid was an adventure in itself and was also a very mind opening experience. It made me more aware of how much people rely on energy. Life without the luxuries of an air conditioner or a television set didn't faze me much, but I never imagined what it would be like to have no power whatsoever. This realization has strengthened my dream of working towards finding and implementing a better alternative to the burning of fossil fuels for energy worldwide."From a Biological Systems Engineering student from UNL:
"We have had it good for many years, using and misusing fuels supplies at will for countless decades without appreciating the simple forms of energy that are around us. In Nebraska there is a high number of farm animals and with only 1 commercial methane digester that is currently in construction in Grand Island, we rarely use the waste that we get from the farm animals. For my summer internship, I had the opportunity to start constructing a privately owned methane digester that will put to use farm animal waste like cow dung and bird droppings. Methane biogas digesters produce methane gas that can be used to for domestic use similar to the propane gas that we normally use."From an engineer from University of Minnesota/Twin Cities:
"I learned a lot through this internship. I came into this job blind, not knowing anything about renewable energy. I learned how biodiesel was made, which seeds have more oil, the different preparation processes for each seed, and the future of biodiesel. I became aware of how efficient and productive wind and solar power are. The most important aspect of this internship was actually the living situation. I lived off grid. The house was powered by a 1-kilowatt wind turbine integrated with 500 watts of photovoltaic cells. These devices charged a battery bank that was connected to an inverter. The inverter then provided power to the house. There was a backup biodiesel generator that was used for heavy loads and running water. Because of the limited power I had to be conscious of everything I used. On a day that wasn't windy I would have to make sure I wasn't wasting any energy, because if I wanted to watch television later, read and needed a light, or wanted to work on my computer I needed to make sure there was power for those items to operate. The most valuable tool I learned from this internship was conservation."From a student from University of Minnesota/Duluth:
"Through both reading and hands on experience, I have learned about various renewable energy types, their basic construction, operation, and benefits. As a result, my interest and intent in learning about this industry will continue after this internship concludes."From a student from University of Massachusetts:
"Overall, this internship has set me on my way towards a destiny. There's so much to be done, and the world is wide open for those who know what to pursue. I know I must have come a long way, because I convinced my parents to support me in an entrepreneurial effort as opposed to just getting a job."From a UNL student:
"The internship was ultimately a great success. It was personally fulfilling as I was given the opportunity to explore policy and technology of an emerging market quickly becoming integral to Nebraska's rural economic future. The hands-off oversight of Mr. Byrnes and NRES forced me to be self-reliant and responsible and encouraged personal investment in the project. As such, I would highly recommend the internship."From a Chemist in a Nebraska state college:
"When I started the internship, I knew nothing about making ethanol. I writing this report, I realized there is no way I could fit everything I've learned into two pages...this report is just a small fraction of what I have learned about the process of making ethanol...What I really liked about the internship was the experience in the laboratory. Before this internship I was always hesitant in the laboratory, lacking confidence is another way to put it. I have more confidence in the laboratory now..."From a former Natural Resources student at UNL
"Actually being able to use studied theories and information in the field is a whole other story. Being an intern for NRES gave me the proof I needed to be confident in my capability to accomplish anything! It gave me the hands on experience I needed to connect with everything I learned in a classroom and anything I did not know, I was able to research."From a Nebraska Political Science student
"Secondly, It has shown me a glimpse of the Unicameral and how it works, bringing around the idea that I would like to work in it one day...I would never have learned such skills if it was not for this internship."From a Wayne State student:
"The internship increased my knowledge on renewable energy, taught me how the different kinds of energy worked and influenced me to do more in the future."From a UNL student that worked on the Energy Farm:
"Renewable carries the underlying concept of sustainability, which is achieved when decisions are made by people of the current generation to not impede upon the options or opportunities of the future generations. It was this concept of community development that I mark as the most important piece of knowledge that I took away from this internship."From another UNL student:
"During my 9 month tenure in the program, I have had many different and valuable experiences that have introduced me to the politics and policy challenges facing renewable energy development in Nebraska as well as the United States, given me many contacts and allowed me opportunities to grow on academic, professional and personal levels."From a computer science student at Dana College:
"This internship has been a very rewarding experience. I am very happy to have been given the chance to share my talents and am grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about renewable energy. This program enabled me to cultivate my understanding of renewable energy and become much more aware of the importance that natural resources play in meeting our world's energy needs. Without a doubt I will carry my experiences this summer with me for the rest of my life."