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Intern Focuses Energy on Future

Mechanical Engineering Student Lays Groundwork for $27M AEP Project

Dan Orth

Mechanical engineering major Dan Orth’s summer internship with Constellation Energy has given him an up-close look at building systems across campus.

By Ed Brennen

On a typically quiet August morning at Olney Hall, something is stirring in the attic.

Above the five floors of science labs and classrooms, in a windowless space that most people will never see, senior mechanical engineering major Daniel Orth is busy working. With building plans in hand, Orth deftly passes through a dimly lit obstacle course of ventilation ducts, air handlers and assorted pipes as if he knows the place by heart.

Considering Orth has spent much of his summer navigating dozens of spaces like this in buildings across campus, carefully noting what is where as part of his internship with Constellation Energy, it’s no surprise that he’s so familiar with his surroundings.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” says Orth, whose work with Constellation is part of the $27 million in upgrades the university is making to 32 buildings over the next three years through the state’s Accelerated Energy Program (AEP).  “I take a lot of pride in the work because it’s twofold: Lowering energy is great for the Earth, but it’s also great for the university’s wallet.”  

As the winning bidder for the energy-saving upgrade work, Constellation must first verify that each building’s mechanical systems match what is shown on paper before contracting work out for new high-efficiency boilers, HVAC systems, plumbing and lighting. It’s a painstaking process that Orth has happily taken on this summer. 

“It’s amazing how many things change over the years without being documented,” he says. “It’s a huge effort, but any work you put in now is twice the work saved at the end.”

Orth landed the internship thanks to his ongoing work-study experience with Energy & Sustainability Manager Paul Piraino in the Department of Facilities Management, a job that he will continue for a third year as a senior.

“It’s been a great match. Paul’s been in the industry a long time and I’ve learned so much from him,” says Orth, who helps Piraino calculate and monitor the university’s electricity, natural gas, oil and water usage. “And Paul will bend over backward to help the students working for him.”

Indeed, Piraino didn’t hesitate to recommend Orth for the internship with Constellation.

“It's fun seeing Dan grow as an engineer,” Piraino says. “He’s made the most of his experience with Constellation Energy this summer.”
A veteran of three previous engineering internships, Orth says he’s been tremendously impressed with his experience at Constellation, where he works out of their local office at Boott Mills in Lowell.

“They’ve thrown me right into large projects, which is rare,” says Orth, who, in addition to his work on campus, also participated in a project at Salem State College. “And I go to the meetings for the projects I’m in. It’s very inclusive.” 
Orth, who grew up in Leicester, earned an associate degree in manufacturing technology from Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester in 2009. After gaining work experience through a pair of internships, Orth enrolled in the Francis College of Engineering in 2012.

From his first calculus class as a nervous freshman, Orth has made the most of his opportunities at UMass Lowell.

“There’s no other situation in life like college,” Orth says. “People from every industry work here, and you need to talk to them, get to know them, go to their office hours, sign up for work study, sign up for internships, because once you’re out of college, you are out of a gigantic pool of resources.”

Orth is already using the connections he’s made at Constellation this summer to help line up his post-graduate plans, which include getting married next to July and moving to Chattanooga, Tenn., where his fiancée works as a nurse.

In addition to his internship, Orth completed a Capstone Project this summer with mechanical engineering lecturer Walter Thomas, who received a $4,000 grant from SunEdison to build a pair of mobile solar panel test beds.

“He didn’t want to just teach students the theoretics of solar, he wanted to send them out to the quad with a solar panel to collect data,” say Orth, who designed and built the adjustable units that will be put to use this year. “I’ll be extremely proud to walk by and see students using it. It will be great seeing it out, making electricity.”