Calvin College’s Big Idea: Build a Better Window, Save the World


Consider the humble window.

Pretty boring, huh? Only good for looking through and daydreaming, right?

Now consider life without them.

Not so boring anymore. Existence would be a lot more grueling — and expensive. Add in a looming global energy crisis, and suddenly research into better windows is more vital. That’s why what’s happening at Calvin College is so exciting.

The school is partnering with a Grand Rapids firm, Mackinac Technologies Inc., to bring to market a product that vastly improves energy efficiency. The polymer pane that bends is custom fit to existing windows, reducing building energy loss by as much as 60 percent.

“We are providing the testing and analysis to show that the coatings are effective at reducing the heat loss through windows,” Renard Tubergen, an associate professor of engineering at Calvin, told the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

He’s recruited students to participate in the research, along with Richard DeJong, an emeritus professor at Calvin.

The partnership isn’t unique at Calvin or Michigan’s 15 top independent colleges and universities. All are award-winning academic institutions. And all know there’s life outside the lecture hall.

Think big enough. Dream outlandishly. Who knows? You could change the world.

Aided by federal grants, the Calvin-Mackinac partnership could one day help do just that. Highly durable and transparent, the product they’re working on could save one quad of energy if fully implemented throughout the United States.

One quad is the equivalent of 8 billion gallons of gasoline. The United States used 95 quads all of last year. So theoretically, the product could help cut the nation’s energy usage by more than 1 percent — an enormous amount.

Suddenly, the humble window isn’t so humble anymore.

That’s the sort of bold, brash thinking that typifies Calvin and the rest of Michigan’s independent colleges and universities. Daring doers, their faculty encourage students to think differently and chart their own path.

With low class sizes and an encouraging network of alumni, the colleges have a sense of community that simply doesn’t exist at big state schools.

And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates that big universities.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.