Piya Kerdlap, a 2009 graduate of Eastchester High School, is heading to Thailand to research whether electric cars would be a boon to large cities such as Bangkok.
Kerdlap is going on a Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarship. He is one of 1,700 U.S. citizens who will travel overseas in the 2013-2014 academic year through the program.
The 22-year-old Kerdlap, whose parents came to the United States from Thailand, is spending the summer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison brushing up on his language skills.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in environmental science, Kerdlap said he is excited because the program allows him to combine his Thai heritage with his passion for environmental science.
He will be abroad for about 10 months and then hopes to pursue a career with an international organization, such as the United Nations or World Bank. “I would like to focus on environmental sustainability with a focus on energy and the environment,” he said.
This is Kerdlap’s second educational trip to Thailand. During his junior year of college, he spent six months researching the use of solar thermal water heating in residential homes.
While the concept seemed promising from his perch in the states, once in Thailand Kerdlap discovered the technology wasn’t feasible. It turns out Thai roofs are not stable enough to support a heavy water storage tank. In addition, water demand is highest in the morning before work, but by that hour the water heated by the previous day’s sunshine would have cooled.
He learned that the best application for the concept would be in Thai hotels, where there is demand for water all day long and better support for the water tanks. That trip inspired him to apply for a Fulbright. “It allowed me to think in a different way,” he said.
Eastchester High School guidance counselor Barbara Kahn said Kerdlap showed a lot of creative initiative even as a high schooler.
He created the school’s annual Dancing With Our Stars fundraiser, which was inspired by the TV show. The event, which pairs students with teachers in ballroom routines, raises about $10,000 a year for the Gilda’s Club charity, Kahn said.
“As a result of his dancing the first year, he got very interested in ballroom dancing and competed in college,” she added.
Kerdlap also helped forge a relationship between Eastchester High and the Beczak Environmental Education Center in Yonkers when he studied there during his senior year internship, Kahn noted.
“He has initiated a lot of things in the school that are still going on today,” Kahn said. “He is a very friendly, outgoing, caring and remarkable young man.”