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Energy Efficiency Engineering in Bali, Indonesia – The Island of the Gods

November 9, 2016

About Me

Connor Shumate is a fifth year Mechanical Engineering student at Northeastern University, originally from Wakefield, Rhode Island. He is also completing a minor in Business Administration at NEU and hopes to use this business knowledge to become a better-rounded individual. After completing his first co-op at Jacobs Engineering in Cambridge, Massachusetts as an MEP Engineer and his second co-op at Smith&Nephew in Mansfield, Massachusetts as a Biomedical Engineer, he decided to embark on an international co-op at Synergy Efficiency Solutions in Bali, Indonesia.

My initial philosophy regarding completion of my three co-ops was to explore three very different fields because, upon entering Northeastern University as a freshman mechanical engineering student, I was still unsure of my career path. After completing my first two co-ops, I decided that it was very important for me (as an engineering employee) to physically see the impact that I was having on others’ lives through my work. Additionally, I wanted to experience a smaller sized company since the first two co-ops I completed were with large global companies. One very important question, which I have repeatedly been asking myself, is– “Is this career/position/industry really what I WANT to do with my life?” There is a big difference between what I WANT and what I am EXPECTED to do with my future, and I believe it is important to always understand the difference between the two. 

Local Coverage: Narragansett Patch

Energy Efficiency Engineering in Bali, Indonesia – The Island of the Gods

Not many people would think that completing a co-op in Bali, Indonesia – a location known more for tourism and vacationing– would be a valuable opportunity for a mechanical engineering student seeking to improve his knowledge in energy efficiency and building systems. Many friends and family members were initially surprised and skeptical of my decision to commit to the position, especially since I had never left the United States before. However, it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I have made as a student at NEU.

The Energy Efficiency Position:

The company that I completed my co-op at is called Synergy Efficiency Solutions on the island of Bali. There are three main components of the business including Energy Auditing, Energy Simulation and Modeling, and ESCO Financing. As a mechanical engineer, I was part of the Energy Auditing Team in which we were hired by clients throughout Bali (mostly hotels and small commercial or industrial buildings). Many of these building owners spend huge amounts of money on energy usage due to low efficiency equipment and poorly designed building systems. Our goal is to evaluate the buildings’ lighting systems, cooling systems, plumbing systems, etc. and propose various energy savings opportunities for the clients. This often involves replacing old equipment with more energy efficient technologies, implementing new building designs and system configurations, or optimizing the existing systems with additional controls. Each project comes with different challenges that must be analyzed and reanalyzed before determining the most optimal energy proposal. There is also an important financial component to energy efficiency which involves the amount of savings that the client will generate over a given payback period based on the proposed design. This position has been very valuable for me as a mechanical engineering student through learning the technical aspects of each building project and as a business administration student through learning about the financial side of these projects. As a small company, Synergy has taught me how to consider how my engineering work impacts other components of a small business. It has truly been an immersive and life-changing experience for me as a student, engineer, and global citizen.

The Culture:

Surprisingly, the transition to Balinese culture was relatively easy. I managed to keep an open mind and allow myself to be immersed in the culture as much as possible. Since Bali is such a touristy destination there are always locations where I could find Westerners to meet. However, the place where I was living was in a community much different from the Western world. The language barrier was somewhat difficult to overcome, but most of the natives spoke English to some extent which made the transition much easier. The best thing that I have learned about living in Bali is that the Balinese people will take an interest in you, if you put yourself out there and try to take an interest in them. Oftentimes when walking around, the locals would stare at me like a tourist. However, after striking up a conversation with them and explaining that I was living in Bali long-term, they seemed to realize that I was truly invested in the culture and respected their way of life. If have made so many new local friends this way. It has inspired me to travel more and learn from other cultures as I continue on in my life. Although the standard of living is much lower in Bali, I have realized that it encourages locals to be so much more innovative and resourceful – something that people back home could definitely learn from. I hope to bring some of these experiences home with me when I return to Boston.

The Reward:

Living in Bali has been amazing. There are so many places to explore including the world-renown beaches and amazing surfing. There was never a weekend where I had to struggle to find something to do even if I was traveling alone on the island. I was working all week, but it felt like I was on vacation the entire time. My initial goals that I wanted to get out of my co-op were to develop my technical skills as an engineer and experience another culture. However, I really did not know what this meant until I spent several months in Bali. I definitely completed these goals as well as so many more goals that I created for myself while living in Bali. The way that my daily routine different from my normal routine in Boston has taught me to see the value in the little things that I always assumed to be insignificant in my life. It has given me more time to think about myself as an individual socially, academically and professionally. It has taught me that there is much more to life in Boston and it has shown me how big the world is and how small it is at the same time.