School of technology adds new degree

Missouri Southern is one of four schools in the nation that will offer an Advance Power Systems minor this fall.

The new physics minor will equip students with the knowledge to handle ultra capacitors and batteries (mostly lithium-based). The four universities offering this degree are MSSU, Missouri State University, University of Missouri and Missouri University of Science and Technology, according to a press release from the school of technology.

The universities may rely on each other to teach classes.

“Some of this will have to be done by distance learning,” said Dr. Bud Sloan, head of the physics department. He said some of the minor’s six required classes might be taught online and by live streaming video.

The need for this minor is necessary because the batteries and ultra capacitors are key components to electric-drive vehicles. President Barack Obama recently called for one million of these vehicles by 2015, and $2.4 billion has been allocated to electric-drive manufacturing initiatives, the press release said.

The new minor will be a big help for EaglePicher, an company that builds these batteries.

“It’s beneficial for us, basically, because entry-level engineering people out of school come to us with that knowledge already in hand,” said Darrell Ideker, senior program manager at EaglePicher. “Typically, nobody teaches how to use this [capacitor] technology.”

Sloan said the batteries will be useful for spacecraft and submarines.

Though the minor will be unique to four universities, Sloan doesn’t think it will necessarily draw a large number of students to Southern because of how new the program is.

“If it gets off the ground, it will take some time for that to happen,” Sloan said.

The degree requires 20 hours to complete. It is available to students currently enrolled in a bachelor’s program in chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, chemical engineering or materials science and engineering.