RPI Interns Join Berkshire Innovation Center's SolaBlock

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PITTSFIELD, Mass Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute graduates Rachel Soto-Garcia and Abdullah Abid have joined clean-and-construction technology company SolaBlock, a member of the Berkshire Innovaction Center, through Rensselaer's "Invent@Rensselaer Startup Immersion" program.

"This internship gives me an opportunity to understand and appreciate the renewable energy industry in a new light. I want to help places that are still developing and help the world for a better tomorrow," Soto-Garcia said, adding her parents experienced frequent power outages from rain in their home country of Guatemala.

They will create a depository of all blueprints for the company, alongside updating the automation of SolaBlock's Solar Masonry Units (SMUs), which embeds a solar cell into a cement masonry block.

"My parents are originally from Pakistan, and I have often heard and experienced several instances of rolling blackouts due to lack of supply of electricity. SolaBlock represents a clear way to not only switch over to sustainable methods of energy but to greatly add on to any location's energy supply," Abid said.

The internships will offer Soto-Garcia and Abid hands-on experience in their field as they prepare to return to  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this upcoming fall to develop their masters' project for their M. Eng. degree in mechanical engineering.

Less than two hours from the Rensselaer campus, SolaBlock's final assembly plant will open this summer in the city.

Professor Asish Ghosh, Director of the Inventor's Studio Courses and Invent@Rensselaer Startup Immersion Program, and a Professor of Practice at Rensselaer's Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering Department, said that such programs help the entire ecosystem of universities, startups, and state & federal agencies focused on advancing the STEM-based workforce.

Eric Planey, chief executive officer of SolaBlock, noted that partnering with Rensselaer will help SolaBlock expand its operations.

"For SolaBlock, not only do we have access to such premier engineering talent like Abdullah and Rachel, but as we enter the New York State market, having the credibility of a strong relationship with RPI will accelerate that growth. RPI also has an incredible architecture school, and potential collaboration there will also help us get our product into market," Planey said in a statement.

Soto-Garcia and Abid graduated in May with their bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering.

Professor Diana Borca-Tasciuc, an expert in solar cell design and technology in Rensselaer's Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering Department, said that the collaboration with Solablock would lead to innovating, designing, and manufacturing of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), a step in the right direction to achieve net zero buildings.

Professor Antoinette Maniatty, Acting Department Head of Mechanical Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering, also the home to the Invent@Rensselaer Startup Immersion Program for the School of Engineering, noted that these internships would lead to several collaborative projects between Rensselaer, SolaBlock and sources of funding both at the state and federal levels, including the implementation of new manufacturing jobs.


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Dalton Discusses Options for Cable Contract Negotiations

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The Cable Advisory Commission held its first meeting since 2019 on Monday night. 
The commission was re-established to negotiate a new contract with Charter Communications. 
There are four voting members on the commission, three of whom are also on the Dalton Community Cable Association's board. 
The commission is weighing its options for obtaining legal counsel, the needs to be negotiated, and need for volunteers. 
The last time the town had a contract was in 1997 with Time Warner Cable, which was purchased by Spectrum in 2016. 
The commission plans to negotiate for a share of gross revenue, capital funds, funding for fiber optic cables, which will enhance its connections, and updated equipment needed to handle this upgrade. 
Commissioner Richard White said, to his knowledge, by law the town should have three stations but it currently only has one. 
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