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Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics


Since its founding in 1941, Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) has been a leader in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.  Today, MMA has the distinction of being the State of Maine’s only institution of higher education where the majority of its graduates major in a STEM discipline.  Guided by a philosophy of “hands-on” learning, MMA has long established a sterling reputation in the shipping and power industries.  But more recently, MMA graduates have also started to become noticed in the ranks of numerous, diversified high-technology companies, the halls of research and development, academia, and senior policy-making organizations within the U.S. government. With each year, more and more of our students are applying – and being accepted – into our nation’s top graduate schools.  High-tech enterprises and laboratories, first accustomed to inviting only interns from well-known research universities, are now actively seeking MMA students who exhibit a powerful synergy of theoretical knowledge with practical “hands-on experience.” 

And what this reflects is our own unique brand of STEM - one that effectively integrates the four components, and overcomes the limitations of the traditional “siloed” approach.  In fact, MMA has refined this technique long before STEM became a “buzzword” and a national priority.

STEM Teacher Training

As one part of our STEM outreach efforts, MMA is involved in teacher training.  During the summer of 2012, we organized a conference whose theme was “Alignment of Mathematics and Science with Career and Technical Education.”  The rationale for this selection was guided largely by the findings of the recent National Academy of Engineering  (NAE) report on K-12 pre-engineering education.  There, the NAE was unequivocal in its conclusion that mathematical modeling and scientific inquiry were the “weakest threads” in pre-engineering and technical education.  Moreover, the NAE highly recommended that

“Engineering design curriculum developers must be more purposeful in creating learning experiences that embed mathematical problems and science inquiry activities into the engineering design process.”


Professor Jill Schoof explains the setup of the "hot wire" experiment.

The hot wire demonstration.


Professor Paul Wlodkowski lecturing at the 2012 STEM teacher training conference held at MMA.


Captain Peg Brandon and STEM teachers calculate the effect of Penobscot Bay currents during a voyage on MMA's navigation training vessel the Capt. Susan Clark.


Enhancing STEM Opportunities for Maine’s K-12 Population

To expand the STEM pipeline in Maine, MMA offers a number of its college courses – tuition free – to qualified high school juniors and seniors.  During the Fall 2013 semester, MMA’s calculus-based physics course was broadcast to three area high schools via the Internet.  Complementing this distance-based learning approach was a weekly laboratory session held on the MMA campus.  In the Spring 2014 semester, MMA has unveiled its first engineering STEM class, which teaches the rudiments of engineering through the practical fields of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.


The exciting work of MMA’s Marine Engine Testing and Evaluation Laboratory (METEL) should not be the sole domain of a recondite group of researchers.  MMA’s STEM program serves as the liaison of METEL to Maine’s K-12 population as well as to the general workforce.  Our mission is to organize future teacher training programs, as well as summer student programs, around the technological developments of METEL.  Articulating the significance of METEL’s work to the general public will also serve as a major part of our future STEM activity.


DOT & METEL Related Links

University Transportation Centers

Current METEL Projects

Diesel/Glycerin Diesel Fuel Project and Hydrogen Injection Project

Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), in conjunction with several partners from the private sector propose field testing of biofuel/fuel oil emulsions and hydrogen injection technology on board a work boat. MMA is the owner/operator of these types of vessels which are used for training mariners as part of MMA’s Tug and Barge training program operating year round in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The project is intended to prove out these new technologies for implementation on work boat class vessels and it the intent of the project to transition these products to industrial workboats such as the Maine Port Authority Ferry lines (which is currently under discussion).

The proposed program tests both alternative low emissions fuels and emission reduction equipment which represent potential "drop-in" solutions capable of implementation in the current workboat fleet. Vessel testing in conjunction with laboratory engine stand testing will occur in the first year, and then long term durability tests will occur through the second. The project implements state of the art emissions measurement equipment on board the tug along with a web-based monitoring system which can be observed remotely.

Testing of a Glycerine-Diesel emulsified fuel blend on a high speed diesel engine test stand.
(From Left to Right:  Professor Richard Kimball, Scott Eaton, Mitch Kuflick, Kira Pilot)

The NOx emission levels are significantly lower for the glycerol-diesel fuel emulsion as compared to the base line of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD).


The Particulate Material (PM) emissions significantly drop for the glycerol-diesel fuel emulsion as compared to the base line of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD).

Development of Advanced Biofuels for Marine Applications (UMaine)

The significant challenge in converting biomass into a transportation fuel is the removal of oxygen which can affect both the stability of the fuel in addition to its compatibility with petroleum derived fuels and infrastructure. The University of Maine is developing two transformative chemical pathways to convert biomass into crude oils that are compatible with petroleum transportation fuels. These oils are highly stable and have oxygen contents ranging from 1-10 wt%. In the first pathway, called Thermal DeOxygenation (TDO) we learned that salts of biomass-derived mixed organic acids could produce a hydrocarbon oil at high yields without catalysts, hydrogen or high pressures. We have demonstrated TDO using a range of alkali/alkaline earth cations, and we have significant data for oils produced using Ca or Mg salts.  Pyrolytic decomposition of the mixed organic acid salts produces a hydrocarbon oil which is almost devoid of oxygen and at bench scale, the yield has been demonstrated at 80% of theoretical based on organic acids or a calculated 56% of theoretical yield based on both acid hydrolysis of cellulose and TDO. The presence of formic acid in the mixture was found to be particularly important in TDO, and it is a co-product of cellulose acid hydrolysis and is present in the optimum concentration in the hydrolyzate which eliminates the need for an external source of formic acid.

Development of Thermoelectric Exhaust Generator (TEG) Heat Recovery Systems for Marine Diesels

Thermoelectric materials are an enabling technology that allows the recapture of this wasted energy from heat sources, such as exhaust and coolant systems, which account for nearly 50% of the total combustion energy. If a fraction of the marine diesel’s wasted energy could be harnessed and stored with high power density batteries, an electric drive system could be utilized to transport ships quietly and cleanly into and out of congested ports and high population centers. Overall, a dramatic reduction of the maritime industry’s carbon footprint could be realized, as a modest 10% increase in engine efficiency translates into a savings of approximately 180,000 barrels of fuel per day on a world-wide basis.

Solid state thermoelectric materials, when exposed to a thermal gradient, generate an electric potential according to the Seebeck effect. While the automobile industry has taken a lead in commercializing thermoelectric generators (TEG) as early as 2013, it is the marine industry that may well be the greater beneficiary of this technology. Economies of scale, the ability to generate a higher thermal gradient, and fewer weight and volume constraints, all suggest a promising feasibility for marine applications. The successful development of a hybrid thermoelectric vessel (green ship) at Maine Maritime Academy is an integral part of the Marine Engine Testing and Emissions Laboratory. 

Maine Maritime Academy, partnered with Thermoelectric Power Systems, LLC, has been conducting research and development in the applications of thermoelectric generators (TEGs) since 2008. The technical rationale behind the inclusion of thermoelectric research is comprised of the following objectives:

 Provide data on the systems-wide effects of the use of TEGs on plant efficiency and performance (in a marine environment).

 Identification of optimal marine platforms to utilize TEG energy recovery systems

 Identification of optimal thermoelectric materials and TEG designs for classes of marine platforms

 To provide the U.S. DOT with an objective and systems level evaluation of TEGs in marine applications.

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