PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Approximately 60 students participated in a Sustainability Challenge at Farleigh Dickinson University on Nov. 3, where they strategized about how Picatinny Arsenal can reduce its electricity use by adding renewable energy sources.

Sitting on 6,500 acres, with more than 2.7 million square footage of floor space, Picatinny scientists, engineers and employees currently use 54 million kilowatts of energy per year. This comes with an annual price tag of nearly $4.7 million.

For the event, students from STEM Academy at Morristown High School and Barack Obama Green Charter School were tasked to work in groups and decide the optimal set of renewable resources that would allow Picatinny to achieve a 75 percent reduction in electricity use over the next five years. The renewable energy options were solar, wind, and geothermal.

"Picatinny's trying to determine different ways to reduce cost of operations and our carbon footprint so that we're a better neighbor," said Shah Dabiri, Picatinny's coordinator of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM.

"The students were presented with the real-world challenge of helping improve Picatinny's carbon footprint using technology and information available for them at the time, they were able to determine the best renewable energy mix that would give us the best possible green footprint," Dabiri said.

"We used some geothermal, some wind arrays, and solar arrays to get a 75.3 percent offset at a cost of $56 million over five years," said Lucas Mohs, a junior at Morristown High School, who plans to become an engineer.

He said his team achieved this by putting solar arrays on the roofs of buildings, in a parking lot and a field, spreading geothermal energy across the property and installing wind arrays on the ridge line of Picatinny.

"They caught on quick, they're fast learners and bright kids," said Joel Harmon, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at Farleigh Dickinson University.

"It's a privilege working with young people to help them understand the issues that we face in the world and what they can do about it. It's very challenging, but they can make a difference. Events like this bring those two messages together. I'm just so privileged to be part of it to help create a difference."

Dabiri added that events like this one helps the students understand how their math and science courses can be applicable in future careers.

In addition to Dabiri, Picatinny employees Pamela Sheehan and Stacey Yauch also participated in the event by answering questions about Picatinny and assisting students with their projects.

The STEM event was coordinated by Picatinny STEM, the Student Global Ambassador Program, Farleigh Dickinson University, the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise and First Energy.

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The STEM office at Picatinny Arsenal operates under the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. The center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, whose mission is to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation.