While other students bought roses and chocolate on Valentine's Day, Daniel Robinson embarked on a last-minute sponsored trip to Australia for a solar energy conference.
Robinson, president of UF's American Solar Energy Society, left Thursday for the Solar Cities Congress in Adelaide, Australia.
The conference, which runs from Sunday to Thursday, will discuss how cities can implement renewable energy, according to its Web site.
He first heard about the conference a month ago, when he got an e-mail from Harald Kegelmann, founder of SolarCity Gainesville Inc., a local nonprofit organization.
Robinson, a mechanical engineering junior, said he instantly wanted to go, but hesitated due to funding and time.
Two weeks later, Kegelmann told him a local donor would provide $3,000 to cover the flight and registration fee, Robinson said.
"You don't expect to wake up in the morning and see someone giving you money to fly to Australia," he said.
He had 24 hours to buy a plane ticket and register for the conference that was less than 10 days away.
The conference, which will feature 90 speakers from 30 countries, will be comprised of professionals in the sustainability field.
Robinson said he is most excited to hear Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speak and to network.
Kegelmann said Robinson's open-minded character will help him absorb information and form contacts.
"Dan has both the technical background as an engineering student but brings also his interest in solar energy to the table," Kegelmann said.
His role as president of the UF American Solar Energy Society is one of Robinson's central activities. The society focuses on sustainability and environmentally sound living.
The members promote the construction of solar panels on buildings and engage in smaller projects such as ovens and tricycles that run on solar power, Robinson said.
He said the conference in Australia will help him become more of an expert on solar energy and increase involvement with the society.
Robinson said he is overwhelmed but excited to see Australia and learn more about one of his passions.
"I hope to have an epiphany that this is important, this is what I should be doing," he said.