UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When you ask a website to store your data, you probably don’t consider what it takes to keep a data warehouse running — often the same amount of energy as a medium-sized town.
Students who completed Ben Cramer’s COMM 489W class do. The course, titled "Advanced Telecommunications Topics - Telecommunications and the Environment," gives 20 seniors the opportunity to explore the “virtual landfill” and countless other environmental challenges of the telecommunications industry.
While the connection between telecommunications and the environment may not be as obvious on the surface level for some, Cramer seeks to show students that the relationship is far-reaching.
“The course opens up possibilities for new career paths,” said Cramer, associate teaching professor of telecommunications. “Work at a nonprofit, work in government or help the company that you're working with understand their own environmental consequences.”
A capstone course for seniors, COMM 489W gives students the opportunity to understand the environmental realities of the industry they are preparing to enter. A common theme Cramer has found is how unaware students were before his class of just how much the environment is impacted by the telecommunications equipment and networks they love.
For every device that is used, raw materials from the Earth are needed to create it. When they are no longer wanted, those devices are thrown away or recycled. They may end up leaking toxic chemicals in the garbage, and the process required to dispose of them takes an immense amount of energy.
Students get to experience this process firsthand during a field trip to the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority. Bringing the issues discussed in class into reality helps class members visualize and understand the large-scale effort that goes into recycling and environmental efforts.