Graduation Caps & Capstone Projects


Nov 30, 2016

There are some experiences in your life that are impacts. These impacts are powerful enough to really make you think about your life, your goals, and where you are headed. For me, the ten days I spent in Iceland became an impact. 

I consider myself an outdoor person and I love adventures so signing up for The GREEN Program sounded awesome. 

However, this trip gave me more than I could have expected. 

Even from day one, I knew I made the right decision to embark on this adventure. Just meeting everyone had me excited to see what’s next, and the people I met are truly amazing. It is one thing to be surrounded by a bunch of friendly strangers, but to be surrounded by like-minded people who encourage you is motivating. And motivating is exactly what this trip was for me. A motivating experience that inspired me to think about my next step and focus it in the realm of what I learned on the trip.

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Stepping out of a test driven classroom and receiving hands on experience with renewable energy was such a wonderful addition to my education. There are many classes that I have taken which gave me a trouble with relating what I was learning to the real world. Actually walking through a geothermal power plant provided me such a better understanding of how clean energy can be harvested. While on the trip, I had the opportunity to tour a few geothermal and hydropower plants, visit a wind turbine, and learn about the production of biofuel. Each tour was interesting in its on way, opening my eyes to real examples of how to live a green life. I will never forget watching a man describe to us the process of using rape seed to produce biofuel, drink from a recently made bottle, and then pour the rest in our tour bus. To me, watching that happen was such an eye opener. I saw first hand that these technologies do work and the classes I am taking are applicable. I was again motivated.

It felt awesome to be around such impassioned people who motivate you to want to learn more.

One of the requirements of the program was a Capstone Project. We had to break up into small groups and come up with a product design or business idea or that we would be interested in learning, designing, and creating. At the end of the trip, we had to present the product in the form of a sales pitch to the whole group. Every day, our group would meet up and talk about our idea. My group’s idea was a company that created designs for sustainable residential homes catered to specific regions in the United States. Our company would meet with housing developers before building and discuss feasible options for each house. My entire group was passionate about researching and learning more. It felt awesome to be around such impassioned people who motivate you to want to learn more. One night, each of us even agreed that our designed company is what we would love to be doing in the future.

I wanted to use my knowledge and my experiences to better the way that I live. 

The most memorable moment for me was, after a long morning of hiking, coming to a place that felt like the top of the world. We took a moment of silence and sat on top of this mountain and looked out to a breathtaking landscape. Silently watching clouds roll over beautiful snow-capped mountains was surreal. One of those moments that pictures can never quite capture. I remember thinking to myself that this trip had changed my life. I remember feeling inspired and never wanting the feeling to end. I wanted to use my knowledge and my experiences to better the way that I live. I decided then I would continue my education with graduate school to learn more about renewable energy and sustainable practices.

When I came back home, I couldn’t stop sharing my life-changing experience. I told my story to anyone who would listen to me. I live in Pittsburgh and the past summer the city started to build “The World’s Greenest Skyscraper”. I was so excited about the project that I began asking around just to connect to someone on the inside. I gained a network to many great people. I even toured sustainable buildings and spoke with firms who have the sustainable drive. I was even able to meet with someone who worked on the skyscraper. All of the connections I made and conversations I had, I can thank to The GREEN Program. To this day, almost a year after the trip, I can still feel that motivation and desire to direct my future to the field of renewable energy and sustainability. I will be attending graduate school in the fall in Environmental Engineering with a focus in a green design and sustainable engineering and I am beyond excited. The GREEN Program made such a positive impact on my life and I can only hope that others have the same experience.

​Text & images by: 
Courtney T., Lehigh University, Environmental Engineering

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