Episode 12: Finding Your Sustain Ability - Dr. Lee Ball, Appalachian State University - Transcript

Back to Episode 12

Dave Karlsgodt 0:00

Welcome to the Campus Energy and Sustainability Podcast. In each episode, we'll talk with leading campus professionals, thought leaders, engineers, and innovators addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing higher ed and corporate campuses. Our discussions will range from energy conservation and efficiency to planning and finance, from building science to social science, from energy systems to food systems. We hope you're ready to learn, share, and ultimately accelerate your institution towards solutions. I'm your host, Dave, Karlsgodt. I'm a Principal at Fovea, an energy, carbon, and business planning firm. In this episode, you'll hear my interview with Dr. Lee Ball. Lee is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. While our goal for this conversation was to talk about his podcast, Find Your Sustain Ability, we also get into a myriad of other topics. Lee will explain the robust sustainability program at Appalachian State, and how he works with people there to find their connection to sustainability. We'll touch on the connections and disconnections of rural and urban communities with the natural world and Lee describe how he has approached working and sustainability in the heart of Trump country. We'll end with an overview of the App State solar-powered racing team. Please enjoy this May 31, 2018 interview with Dr. Lee Ball. Well Lee, it's great to talk to you again today. Thanks for coming on the show.

Lee Ball 1:23

You're welcome.

Dave Karlsgodt 1:24

Well, the original premise of this show was to talk about your podcast, Find Your Sustain Ability, which I have to say, arguably, has a much more creative title than this podcast does.

Lee Ball 1:34

I did not come up with it.

Dave Karlsgodt 1:36

Fair enough. But before we get into that, I thought you can start us off by just giving us a bit of background on yourself and maybe your role, and a little bit about the program at Appalachian State, assuming I pronounced that correctly.

Lee Ball 1:49

Yeah. Yep, Appalachian. App State.

Dave Karlsgodt 1:52

Great. We'll go with that, App State. But why don't you kick us off?

Lee Ball 1:55

Sure. So, I'm the University's Chief Sustainability Officer. I'm very fortunate to be in this role. But but prior to that, I came to Appalachian State in 2002 and started teaching in our building science program. And so my, my specialty is residential construction, sustainable building design. And I was faculty here for 14 years and even became very involved with campus sustainability. And, you know, leadership around campus sustainability and various different committees and working groups and task forces that we've tried to organize ourselves. And, and then I had the opportunity to step into this position and lead our sustainability office, which is about eight years old. It's a lot of fun. I'm able to work with both sides of the house, you know, business affairs, academic affairs, and my position reports up to the Chancellor's Office, so we have a lot of credibility on this campus. And and so you know, we're mostly trying to help people find their connection to sustainability. And we do also a lot of fundraising around sustainability. And we run multiple different programs and projects, you know, and help support other sustainability focused and related programs and projects all across campus. We're, we're very lucky to have a lot of capacity within our office. We employ about 25, well, this fall we'll have about 30 students on the payroll and six full time staff members and, and gives us the ability to really get a lot of work done. And again, like I said, support sustainability efforts across campus. The university is, is a great place because it's situated in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the Blue Ridge Mountains and northwest North Carolina. And it's, we call the high country. Our elevation here at campus is 3,333 feet. And, and it's it's a cooler place in the summer than most places in the south and really most places on the east coast. And, and it's a mountain, rural mountain community. And, because it's a rural mountain community, the sense of thrift and, you know, the true sense of, you know, being conservative, really is at the kind of the root of our kind of mission and really experience around sustainability. So, you know, the mountain people here have, they're very resilient, you know, they're, they have a lot of tenacity and they have it, they know how to do more with less and, and, and that coupled with the beautiful surroundings of this mountain environment, I think, is probably why sustainability emerged here at Appalachian State in the 60s and 70s kind of on the academic side in the classroom. So there a lot of faculty started developing sustainability courses before we even used that word in the lexicon. And, and we had Earth studies programs in the 70s, we had one of the first, we think, sustainable development degree programs in the country. And we have an appropriate technology program that's now called sustainable technology that also started in the 80s. And, and so we've been doing it for a long time. And we're just, again, like I said, very, very lucky to have this dynamic sort of emerge here at Appalachian State. Just a lot of really committed students, lot of committed faculty, a lot of committed staff. You know I came to it through the environment, largely. Undergraduate degree in biology and natural sciences developed the environmental connection and natural world that I was drawn to originally and then my master's degree was in environmental education. I, you know, realized pretty early on that I wanted to not become a scientist, but I wanted to work in, in education and try to, you know, teach people to care more. All along, though I had construction experience. My father was a contractor, so kind of, you know, fallback jobs were, you know, building and construction and I ended up doing stone masonry and having my own business. And then, because I had a master's degree, I had the opportunity to be an adjunct. And, you know, I thought that was kind of exciting until, you know, I was, you know, a struggling adjunct, and a lot of people probably can relate to that. And I did that for a long time and kind of became a lecturer and, and, but, you know, decided to go back and get a doctorate in sustainability education from Prescott College. Great program. Made a lot of lifelong friends there and, you know, had the opportunity to take the helm here at the, at the Office of Sustainability at Appalachian State. And it's been three years since I've been in this role. And it's, you know, never a dull moment in my job.

Dave Karlsgodt 7:16

Well, there's a lot to dig into there. I can certainly relate to the mountain culture comments. I grew up in rural western Montana, surrounded by the mountains. And I know what you mean by folks having a sense of resilience and conservatism in that in the truest sense of that word. Actually, I wasn't too far from the University of Montana, which I think used to play Appala--, or sorry, Appalachian State in football, if I remember correctly.

Lee Ball 7:38

Yeah, that was, we did compete. And and now we've, Appalachian State has moved up to Championship Series Division 1. And yeah, football is is big here as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 7:52

Moving on up, I guess. Well, so you also mentioned you have six full time staff and 30 students. And that seems like a pretty big department for a school of your size and something I think a lot of other sustainability officers would be jealous of. But if I understand it correctly, you're quite a bit smaller than say UNC-Chapel Hill, right?

Lee Ball 8:11

Yeah, we're a mid major. So 18,000 is will probably be our enrollment this fall coming up.

Dave Karlsgodt 8:19


Lee Ball 8:20

We've been experiencing a lot of slow and steady growth here. And yeah, we're, we're lucky, you know? We get a lot of support from our chancellor and leadership at Appalachian State and, and sustainability is a part of our strategic plan. It's a really big part of our strategic plan. And so people take it seriously here.

Dave Karlsgodt 8:42

Well, the other thing you mentioned a second ago was something about funding, fundraising. Tell me more about what you meant by that. Is that for your department, or for the school at large, or tell me more.

Lee Ball 8:52

Yeah, kind of all the above, you know. I work at low and high levels here. And so you know, we fundraise for, you know, specific projects, and also, you know, we're working on, you know, developing new parts of campus. We're currently imagining an Innovation Campus that's probably going to be close to a $70 million build out, you know, by the time it's all said and done. And, you know, there's a lot of strategy related to trying to raise that kind of money. Fortunately, I'm not, you know, the one to do all the heavy lifting on that, but I'm involved and, you know, a lot of the conversations and a lot of the strategy behind it, and, and that project will have a big sustainability focus. And it's going to be all about sustainability, and, and really how people can work together in collaborative teams to problem solve and to, you know, create new ideas and technology, and it's going to be very trans-disciplinary and involve just about every college on campus.

Dave Karlsgodt 9:51

Well, that leads into one of my questions for you. Would you say your focus more on the operational aspects of sustainability or more on sustainability education?

Lee Ball 10:00

Yeah, so you know, the sustainability office is standalone. We're not an academic unit. And so almost every college on campus has a sustainability program. Sustainable development as a department, they focus on agriculture and policy is, you know, more on the social science realm. We also have a sustainable technology degree program as well that focuses on mostly renewable energy. And, you know, our building science program has a big sustainable building design component that's also in the same department with sustainable technology. It's actually called "sustainable technology and the built environment." That's the department's name. Our college of business does a lot as well. There's a sustainability minor, but there's also a sustainability tract and their MBA program. And so, you know, they're doing a lot and then there's a ton in biology as well as environmental sciences, environmental studies. And so there's a lot of, you know, sustainability integrated all throughout the university.

Dave Karlsgodt 11:03

Yeah, it sounds like there's quite a bit going on there. How much of this was set up before you started? You said you'd been there about three years or so? And how much have you had to set up since you took on the role?

Lee Ball 11:15

Yeah, well so I came in 2002 as faculty and then everything, well, with the exception of the sustainable MBA, was already in place. So yeah, I mean, there's a long history of faculty teaching sustainability in the classroom here. And when I stepped into the role of Chief Sustainability Officer, we just tried to find ways to support them to get students, their students involved with projects on campus. You know, we're we do really, we do a very good job of kind of using the campus as a living laboratory. Our staff here that are responsible for overseeing things related to energy efficiency and renewable energy and zero waste and, and our recycling, we have a very robust composting program. Our staff is really interested and good at working with students and faculty, which I see my peers at other institutions are, you know, have barriers and different kinds of challenges related to try to get, you know, those two entities together.

Dave Karlsgodt 12:25

Yeah, it sounds like your campus has quite a long history of making this work. And it's fun to hear about a campus that's been able to bridge that gap between the operations and education, because I know that's not necessarily the easiest thing to pull off all the time.

Lee Ball 12:38

We certainly have bridged the gap. I mean, I think that that is our strongest component to campus sustainability, where it's pretty seamless. When a student or a faculty member come to us with an idea, we're going to make, we're going to help them try to realize that idea. So if they want to, you know, learn about data related to a building, our, you know, our staff are, they've got it at their fingertips and they're willing to share. You know, if they want to be involved with planned reviews of renewable energy systems or, or learn about, you know, the process of, you know, building buildings, you know, we can plug them in. Our compost program is amazing. We have a 100-ton facility. We can accept 100 tons of input annually. We started composting in buildings across campus, but it's mostly started with our dining hall, and with kind of pre-consumer waste in the dining hall. And now we're starting to offer composting at academic buildings and at residence halls, which we're going to be rolling out very aggressively here this fall to every resident hall on campus and more and more academic buildings. So, not making people campus, but, you know, we're going to make it available for the people that do want to save their compost and their work spaces and classroom spaces will have a place to put it.

Dave Karlsgodt 14:05


Lee Ball 14:06

And it's just, you know, there's a lot of research opportunity with that. And so students get really interested, involved and, and we just, you know, we have a lot of fun trying to help, you know, students and faculty imagine how they can, you know, make what they're learning more hands on and applied.

Dave Karlsgodt 14:22

A short editorial break here, we had forgotten to turn Lee's local recorder on when we were recording the podcast, but we remembered at this point, so you'll hear the sound quality at quite a bit better from this point forward. So Lee, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about the specific roles you have within your staff? It sounds like having six full time staff and all those students has been a pretty big enabler in helping you do all the great work you're doing.

Lee Ball 14:44

It does. I mean, you know, we have a communication team. And so we have one person that, you know, her role is to manage all of our social media, our website, and she's fortunately also a very good graphic designer. We do a lot of outreach through our office and so people often utilize our services to make a poster, or we want to make posters, you know. There's all kinds of ways to message about sustainability, but, you know, a lot of it is through print media. And then so the student team that we have they, you know, they're the kind of boots on the ground that can kind of get everything out and hang it up and, you know, will do sidewalk chalk sometimes, and, or will do a lot of tabling different places. And, and, you know, that kind of communication part of what we do is critical. We also have someone that's, you know, involved with managing all of our campus renewable energy systems. And he's a data specialist for us. So he, he leads our STARS reporting process for AASHE. And, you know, he has a couple of graduate assistants, you know. Of those students, we have four or five GAs, typically, graduate students, and then the rest are all undergraduate students. And so we get to cherry pick, you know, GAs, from different programs on campus that offer graduate work to, you know, to their students. And we're fortunate to have really good relationships with faculty that can, you know, help us find really good people. And then we have another staff person who is primarily responsible for managing zero waste on campus. We have a green office certification on campus. We help facilitate a lot of green events and zero waste events. And so she makes sure that all those programs are running smoothly and we've got, you know, warm bodies there to make sure that they're going to happen without a hitch. And, and I could go on and on, because, you know, her role has really expanded. We're hiring an outreach coordinator. The job is currently posted. That person is going to be responsible for really managing all the students and allow our program manager to have more time to be able to make our programs even stronger. And on top of that, we've got two administrative positions. So one kind of den mother, if you will, office manager to take good care of all of us. And on boards, a lot of with HR needs that we have and all the paperwork related hiring all the students and, and then we also have another, he is a finance manager and event planner. And we do a large conference for 500 people every year. It's happening in late July. And then we also, our university has a solar vehicle team. And the solar vehicle team is run through our office where the lead administrators for that project, and it's a student run project, but we administer it. And he is the kind of lead administrator for that on the kind of admin kind of purchasing level. So there's a lot going on and we're also about to hire a development officer to help me with fundraising.

Dave Karlsgodt 17:54

Wow, okay. Yeah, it sounds like you've got a ton going on there. And I think anybody listening to this would be pretty jealous of that, that level of staffing. That's pretty amazing, the team you have going on there.

Lee Ball 18:04

Yeah, I know. We're very fortunate, very blessed.

Dave Karlsgodt 18:08

So one thing I did want to ask you was how are you funding all this? I mean, do you have multiple revenue streams for this? Or is this all coming from the central office?

Lee Ball 18:16

Yeah, there's multiple revenue streams. And we have to, you know, we're very creative. Because sustainability has been integrated into our strategic plan, you know, that helps with with, you know, the kind of the funding piece. It, you know, there's there's several funding streams and buckets of money and some from the chancellor's office, some from business affairs, some from academic affairs, some from donors, as well.

Dave Karlsgodt 18:41

Okay. Well, yeah, so it sounds like it's maybe evolved a little bit over time?

Lee Ball 18:45

It has, it's been an evolution. It started as an office of two.

Dave Karlsgodt 18:49

Okay, all right. All right. Well, that that leads me into another question, which is you mentioned you had 30 students working for you? How are you dealing with the fact that, I know from my own experience, students are great, except for they eventually graduate. So then you've got them all trained up and they leave you.

Lee Ball 19:07

We, we try to encourage them to go to grad school. Yeah. And we sometimes hire them. We've got a couple of graduates working for us this summer that decided they didn't want to, they didn't want to leave Boone quite yet. And so we're like, yeah, will you stick around and work for us this summer? It'd be great to have you. So their, you know, temps for the summer, part time temps. But that's really difficult. We're proud of them and we want them to go off and save the world. It's hard to see them leave the nest because we invest a lot of time in them. But we're also really proud to see where they end up and to track their progress. And, you know, it's exciting for them. It's exciting for us. But it is a little difficult with that institutional knowledge baton pass. STARS is probably the biggest example of where we struggle. And so that's that STARS reporting is a three year cycle. And by the time we get someone trained up to help us with the reporting process, with mostly with all the data gathering, you know, they're ready to leave.

Dave Karlsgodt 20:13


Lee Ball 20:14

And so our current student that is helping us with that was an undergrad and had stayed for graduate school. And so that's, you know, that's ideal. Often when we find, you know, one of the shining stars as an undergraduate, we asked them if they have graduate, you know, plans. And then if they do, if they're here, we're, you know, we're very fortunate. And especially if they want to keep working for us.

Dave Karlsgodt 20:30

So you've got some sort of policy to clip their wings, so they don't leave the nest?

Lee Ball 20:42


Dave Karlsgodt 20:43

I got it. All right--

Lee Ball 20:45

Not totally.

Dave Karlsgodt 20:45

Okay, fair enough. Well, so I wanted to get back to the original premise of this podcast, which was to talk about your podcast, Find Your Sustain Ability, which, as far as I understand, it's still pretty early days, I guess, right?

Lee Ball 20:58

Yeah, it is, it is. I don't have a lot of time to do it. I started, I guess the first one was in November 2015. And I didn't publish another one until 2017 in March, but it was, you know, it takes a lot to sound engineer everything. It started because we have this amazing university communication group on campus that supports all the campus communication and marketing needs. And they have a podcast team and a podcast studio. They invited me to start a podcast and help me come up with a title "Find Your Sustain Ability." They're just so amazing to work with that I was just honored to do this. I'd never even thought about doing a podcast. I feel like I've barely gotten my legs. Probably haven't yet. You know, I've kind of stumbled my way through it. It's, it's always like the introduction, the formal part, that I have to like, be on sort of script and say, the right thing, the stumble and my podcast, and we have to re--, you know, usually it's after my guess is gone I'll go back and redo it. And but once we kind of get into flow like we're doing now, I'm very comfortable. Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. I've had some really interesting guests on. I try to interview our keynote speakers for our conference, or it's actually called the Appalachian Energy Summit. And so I try to interview those people when they're, when they're here. And then anybody else that you know, I just find interesting. I've done six, I believe, and five are published.

Dave Karlsgodt 22:40

Right. Yeah, I've been impressed with some of the heavy hitters you've had on. I know Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA. Majora Carter. I'm trying to remember some of the others.

Lee Ball 22:52

Yeah, that's right. And Jeff Biggers was another one. He, he specializes in regenerative cities and sustainability in Appalachia. And then the other two were kind of internal people that are one staff person and one faculty member.

Dave Karlsgodt 23:07

Yeah. Oh, yeah, that's right. I'm trying to remember those as well. I think it was somebody from maybe your finance department or something like that?

Lee Ball 23:15

Um, no.

Dave Karlsgodt 23:17

Okay. You told me--

Lee Ball 23:19

Social justice. Yeah, it was a faculty member in health sciences and he focuses on social justice and food insecurity. We run a food pantry out of our office too. There's, you know, like many campuses across the country, a lot of students, faculty, and staff are food insecure. And there was a demonstrated need here at Appalachian State. And we decided, hey, what the heck, we've got some extra space, we turned a conference room into a food pantry and a free store. And we've been running it now for two years. And it's, unfortunately, been very successful. It's used a lot.

Dave Karlsgodt 23:54

Right. Yeah, one of those programs you're glad you have but wish you didn't need, right?

Lee Ball 23:58


Dave Karlsgodt 23:59

Yeah, all right. Well, getting back to the podcast, so you know, again I've been impressed with some of the people you've been able to talk to. And I think I've been struck most by the fact that, you know, like, I remember Gina McCarthy really giving a true personal story about her journey through sustainability and her role in leadership. So yeah, can you tell me a little bit more about that? I mean, what have you learned from talking to all these folks, or just generally, in your work, leading this department at Appalachian State?

Lee Ball 24:29

Yeah, I mean, I believe that leadership is one of the big keys to, you know, maybe us getting out of this mess one day, you know, that, that we found ourselves in with almost 8 billion people on the planet and finite resources. You know, leaders all around the world, whenever they make a decision, it in my opinion, it's, there's going to be a sustainability opportunity. And, and so the more that we help our leaders understand their connection to sustainability, I feel like that they'll deepen their understanding. And that when they have to make decisions, the hope is that they will consider a an option that is more sustainable. So that's kind of it in a nutshell. And so, you know, I've found in my work that I work with a lot of leaders, you know, very fortunate to sometimes work at a higher level. And, you know, I just try to help them understand their connection. And I love hearing people's story. If they connect, because they love the woods, or they love to fish, or they love to paint, you know, landscapes or whatever it is, if they love animals, or if they, you know, love food, or whatever their connection is, I love to hear those stories. I think it's important for people to understand their own kind of sustainability story, how they've come to either the social justice or the environment or, or economics, and all the different ways that we can connect. Hearing people's stories is...their, their personal stories, I just find it fascinating that, it's really in my personality, to try to get to the root of a person for whatever reason, I don't know. I'm always trying to make connections with people, I think. You know, asking their story is, is just fun and intriguing. And I've seen kind of aha moments within, you know, my friends and colleagues and people that I'm, you know, talking to you about sustainability, they've, you know, through these conversations, they've made us watch them make connections that they didn't make before, that they didn't kind of realize. Do you know what I'm saying? And so I just find it just fascinating.

Dave Karlsgodt 26:46

Yeah, that brings us back to your comments earlier about the rural community because, you know, that sense of personal connection definitely seems to be stronger. You know, I know, growing up in rural Montana, that was the case. But they're definitely also is this disconnect between the politics that we associate with those areas. And I'm not sure what that's all about, but, I don't know, maybe you can speak about that.

Lee Ball 27:08

You know, I think that those of us that were fortunate to maybe live more closely, more, maybe closer connected to nature, there's more of a chance that we never lost our disconnect to nature. So you know, you compare that to someone that was born in the middle of a city of 10 million people. And, you know, maybe there's a park here and there or some trees here and there, but it's, it's their, their connection to nature is vastly different to kind of how we grew up in a more kind of suburban areas, maybe that were, that had more access to the woods, if you will, or some natural, you know, feature, you know, water body, a creek, an ocean, or even a park that's close. I think that that disconnect, again, is a key to why people don't care as much. I think when you ask people, of course, every most people care about, you know, each other, and we care about the environment, you know, we don't want to ruin it. But that innate care, connection that I think that a lot of us have because we were, we retain that connection over time, is something that I think we can work towards rebuilding. We can do it with the design of our buildings, we can do it through the design of our cities and landscapes, that kind of that field biophilia. Biophilic design is something that really attracts me. And I think it's a, it's a strategy that I'm interested in using more and more to help people retain their connection to the natural world.

Dave Karlsgodt 29:02

Excellent. Well, I think that leads well into my next question, which maybe it's building on those personal relationships to some extent, but I wanted to ask you about being on the other side of the country from where I'm at, and being in the deep, deep in the heart of Trump country. What has it been like working sustainability during this, this political moment that we're experiencing? I suppose, you know, given all you just said about personal connections, perhaps you avoid politics or just work around them. But I'd be curious to hear just sort of how you've approached that, or, you know, if things are different? Or if it's really affected you much at all?

Lee Ball 29:37

Yeah, yeah. Our town was blue, our county was red. You know, and, and it's very typical to have the rural parts of North Carolina all went red. You know, I've seen it mobilizing all kinds of people. You know, a lot of people are frustrated. Yeah, I think I've learned through this work to really focus on personal relationships, and just really getting to know people. We need everyone's help. You know, we need people on both sides of the aisle with every perspective imaginable, I think, to a certain degree, I mean, obviously, you know, deep intolerance, I don't have a lot of patience for, but reasonable people that are, are smart and, you know, that care about their families and their loved ones, typically care about the environment to building stronger personal relationships with people of, you know, all religious and political persuasions, affiliations, that's where it's at, for, for me, and our sustainability efforts. Everybody's got a good idea. Everybody has had experience, you know, with trying to recycle or trying to get access to clean water. Most people are frustrated with, with, you know, litter and pollution and things that marginalize them. So, I mean, that's, it's pretty easy to find people that can help. So, you know, you pay attention to the media, and there's a lot to, you know, be frustrated with, you know, probably on both sides of the aisle. But being here in the trenches, I just find a lot of allies all over the place, and many places who wouldn't have least, where I've least expected them.

Dave Karlsgodt 31:25

Right. Yeah, so this doesn't sound like it's a left versus right kind of thing but that, much of the work you're doing just sort of transcends the politics of the day?

Lee Ball 31:33

Yeah, it does. I just try to leave politics out of it. People can argue about politics on and on and on indefinitely. You know, it's easier to find common goals and common ground and then build from there. You know, I've been in sustainability long enough to be able to help, you know, people that haven't really, that maybe think of it as is being pretty left, you know, and, you know, to kind of understand a different perspective.

Dave Karlsgodt 32:00


Lee Ball 32:01

And, you know, we sometimes don't use the word as much, you know, in certain conversations. But we, we've kind of reached the point, I think, here at the university where there's a lot of acceptance and people are understanding that it means just a lot of different things. You know, it's not, as my boss likes to say, it's not just about solar panels and tiny trash cans. You know? It's, it's, it's a lot more, you know? It's about culture and it's about people and resiliency and so much more. So, politically in a state, as well, you know, our state went red for the first time, like, governor, house, and senate the first time in 100 years. But still, we've got a lot of allies all across the state on both sides of the aisle, and, and people are supporting us. Despite, you know, the Trump era, we're still getting a lot of good work done.

Dave Karlsgodt 32:53

Yeah. Well, it certainly sounds like it. I appreciate all that you've shared so far and I think that can serve as an inspiration for the rest of us, no matter what part of the country we live in. So as we're winding down here, we've talked about a lot of amazing topics, certainly the podcast and, and all the other great work you're doing out there. But is there anything I forgot to ask you about that you'd like to share?

Lee Ball 33:17

Yeah. I just really appreciate your time. You know, if I'm going to have the opportunity to use this as a sounding board, you know, one of the, one of the things that has been just very rewarding recently is to watch our university solar vehicle team progress and build their new car. It's called team Sunergy. And the our new car that we're building is a coupe style. It's a two seater. So the whole kind of international solar racing industry is moving kind of away from that spaceship looking George Jetson car to a car that people, cars that people can imagine themselves driving. So our car is a two seater, it's a coupe. And we're kind of in the middle of its construction. Just finished all the carbon fiber in the body and we're assembling all its parts. And we're racing this summer in Hastings, Nebraska in the Formula Sun Grand Prix. And its a track-style race over three days. And that's a qualifier for the American Solar Challenge, which is from Omaha, Nebraska to Bend, Oregon along the Oregon Trail. And it is a partnership with the National Park Service. They're commemorating 50 years of their trail system. And we're can't wait to compete this summer.

Dave Karlsgodt 34:39

Oh, that sounds very cool. We'll have to get some links up on the podcast website for that.

Lee Ball 34:43

Yeah, yeah, please do because, you know, your followers can, or listeners, your listeners can follow us. The whole thing is GPS tracked across the country once we start an Omaha. And you can follow all the teams, everybody can follow their favorite team. Well, there's a lot of schools from around the world will be competing in both of those races. And then, looking forward, the kind of Super Bowl of solar racing is a World Solar Challenge that started 30 years ago in Australia and that races from Darwin, on the north coast of Australia, to Adelaide on the southern coast over 3,000 kilometers through the outback. And our plans are to take our new car, which is named ROSE, "racing on solar energy," to Australia in the World Solar Challenge in 2019 in October.

Dave Karlsgodt 35:30

Well, that sounds so cool. And I think this only adds to the jealousy that a lot of other people are going to have about you and your job and all the cool things you get to work. Sounds like you're a pretty busy guy.

Lee Ball 35:40

I work a lot. Maybe next time we can talk about international stuff. I just got back from two weeks in Brazil.

Dave Karlsgodt 35:48

Right, right. Yeah. Well, we'll have to save something for the next episode, I suppose, right?

Lee Ball 35:52


Dave Karlsgodt 35:53

All right, well, anything else I forgot to ask you about?

Lee Ball 35:56

Yeah, no, I think we covered a lot.

Dave Karlsgodt 35:59

Great. Well, I will look forward to seeing you at AASHE this fall in Pittsburgh.

Lee Ball 36:03

Yes, definitely. Our team will be there. So yeah, we, we look forward to kind of a homecoming at AASHE every year.

Dave Karlsgodt 36:10

Well I'll look forward to that. Thanks again for coming on the show, Lee.

Lee Ball 36:13

All right, no problem Dave. Thank you so much.

Dave Karlsgodt 36:16

That's it for this episode. To learn more, you can always see the show notes at our website at campusenergypodcast.com. You can follow us on Twitter. We are @energypodcast. This show is a free service, but if you'd like to support the show, please consider leaving a rating or review on iTunes or just telling a friend about the show. As always, thanks for listening.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai