Keith Hautala


College: Engineering

UK Engineering Cranks Up Energy at Capitol Visitors Center

Published: Feb 25, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 25, 2013) — The University of Kentucky College of Engineering provided an interactive demonstration of energy efficiency for visitors at the grand opening of the Capitol Education Center in Frankfort earlier this month.


The center, a new “green” learning facility for students and visitors at the Capitol Campus, was created by repurposing a dormant heating and cooling facility. UK, and specifically the Power and Energy Institute of Kentucky, (PEIK) provided some of the “kinematic displays” at the center, where visitors interact with displays that teach them about energy.  


The displays were constructed by lab technician Richard Anderson under the direction of  Larry Holloway, chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.  To operate them, visitors turn a hand crank to generate enough power to light one of three bulbs: incandescent,  compact fluorescent or LED. This dramatically demonstrates the difference in the amount of power needed to light each type of bulb. UK also assisted with appropriate terminology for the signs. 


Anderson and Holloway attended the event, along with UK Engineering students Jonathan Broadbent and Nick Graczyk. The University of Louisville also contributed devices, and both schools received funding from the first lady to create exhibits.


“More than 60,000 students, teachers and other guests visit the Capitol Campus each year, and we designed this Center with them in mind,” Gov. Steve Beshear said. “The building offers a unique space for visitors to relax, eat lunch, and learn. The building will serve as an outstanding resource to promote energy efficiency, sustainability and more.”


“There is no other state in the nation that has an educational center for visitors like this one,” first lady Jane Beshear said. “We have completely repurposed and recycled an old, unused heating and cooling building to serve as a modern learning facility that visitors to the Capitol will enjoy for many years to come.”


The Center is located adjacent to the State Capitol and features a modern “green” design. The building is insulated with recycled denim and features a viewing platform on the roof with solar panels, a wind turbine and a rooftop garden. “Eco-screens” inside the Center display how much energy the facility is using in real time and how much energy the building’s solar panels are creating.


The Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC) in the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet was the lead agency responsible for developing the educational components and coordinating the efforts of the partners in this project. The Center is outfitted with a range of interactive and multimedia kiosks and touch screens that provide information about sustainability, history, geography and tourism in Kentucky.


“It’s been a privilege for our cabinet to work with the first lady to fulfill her vision of this project for Kentucky’s students,” said Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Joseph U. Meyer. “This center is a testament to what can be done when multiple agencies collaborate on a shared goal. I commend our contributing partners for breathing new life into this facility and making it a model for other states.”


KEEC worked alongside Kentucky Educational Television (KET) to select and provide educational content inside several of the learning kiosks.


Other key partners in the educational components include the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Division for Air Quality, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Kentucky Historical Society, and the Commonwealth Office of Technology.


The Capitol Education Center also includes a kitchen outfitted with appliances donated by General Electric.


Funding to retrofit and repurpose the Center was provided by a combination of sources. Duke Energy donated $250,000 for the project and the Finance and Administration Cabinet contributed nearly $1.1 million for both in house and bid work, Jane Beshear said.


“In addition to offering safe, affordable and reliable energy for citizens of the commonwealth, Duke Energy believes we have an obligation to help educate the next generation about energy. We celebrate Mrs. Beshear’s vision for the Capitol Education Center and we are happy to be a part of the partnership that has helped make this vision become a reality” said Duke Energy Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers.


“This project shows how creativity, collaboration and resourcefulness can bring a facility such as this to fruition,” said Finance Cabinet Secretary Lori H. Flanery. “This is a project that all of our Facilities Support staff enjoyed working on.”


This facility was originally built in 1988 to house heating and cooling equipment for the Capitol Campus. As the campus grew, more space was needed for the equipment and it was moved to a different location, leaving the building empty and unused.


For information on the Capitol Education Center and how to visit, please go to

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