The Power Generation
David Danielson founded the MIT Energy Club in 2004 with one friend over a pizza. “I never expected it to grow like this. It never crossed my mind,” he says of the 3,500-member club — the largest, fastest-growing extracurricular group on campus.
“Energy at MIT has become more like a movement. And we need a movement all over the country, all over the world,” says Club Co-President Caleb Waugh, a doctoral student in nuclear science and engineering, who adds that energy is the defining challenge of this generation. “We need more people. The more novel ideas and solutions, the higher our likelihood of success.”
“Energy is an incredibly complicated, massively intricate industry,” says Co-President Michael Bishop. “It’s a hugely complicated problem. MIT students love that. We recognize that it’s a three, four, five decade endeavor to massively overhaul the infrastructure of one of the most important industries on the planet. And students are saying, ‘Hey, let’s get behind this.’”
Members spend a day with the U.S. Energy Secretary, tour a wind blade facility, or discuss the science of climate change or national biofuel policy over dinner, while the 20-member executive committee often invites industry experts to campus to lead discussions on electric vehicles, green buildings, or renewable energy. Entirely student run, the club hosts 100 events per year. The annual MIT Energy Conference — the most prestigious student energy conference in the world — is the club’s flagship event, where CEOs and other industry experts discuss technology, policy, industry, and finance with a crowd of 1,500.
“The strength of the club is that it’s multidisciplinary. We have business, technology, and policy students, engineers, scientists, grads, undergrads — and it’s fantastic because it’s such a multifaceted problem,” says Bishop, adding that the MIT club was also a first member of the Collegiate Energy Association, a global network of 83 university energy clubs with more than 10,000 students.
“I do think this force of people will help solve the world problem,” says Danielson, who earned a PhD in 2008 and recently was nominated as assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The MIT Energy Club and the MIT Energy Initiative is an amazingly powerful network. It’s a wave that’s just starting to break onto the shore.”