Community Collaborations

Vandergrift Improvement Project

The Mascaro Center is working with the citizens of Vandergrift (Westmoreland County, Pa.; population: 5,200) to help them become more sustainable while also thriving economically. A group of local citizens (the Vandergrift Improvement Project) has decided to try to grow the town using principles of sustainability (modeled after the Swedish Natural Step program).   The Mascaro Center is working to help them to achieve these goals.

Beginning in 2005 under the direction of Dr. Mary Besterfield-Sacre, teams of students worked to determine how one might reduce the energy load of the historic Casino Theatre while maintaining its unique character. 

A second team, led by Dr. Lisa Weiland, continues to examine how micro hydro technologies might enable the Vandergrift business district to lower its energy bills, helping to attract new businesses to town.

Results have shown that the Kiskiminetas River is a significant untapped natural energy resource for the town. There also was a knowledge gap, says Weiland, about how best to harness that resource. Weiland recognized that the situation presented a rare opportunity to close that gap by developing new sustainable-energy technology, which would likely have applications far beyond Vandergrift. So she organized a student team—known as the Hydrokinetic Energy Harvesting Team—to work on a new technology.

With Weiland’s guidance and seed funding from the Mascaro Center and the Heinz Endowments, the students are now working with Vandergrift residents to harness the Kiski River’s energy in innovative ways while also reducing the town’s energy consumption. 

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