Humanitarian Engineering — what is it good for out in the real world? According to students who have participated in the groundbreaking interdisciplinary program, a whole lot…

Hannah Jewess

Graduated as Environmental Engineering in May 2018

Hannah Jewess is a class of 2018 Colorado School of Mines Alumni. She graduated with a BS in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Humanitarian Engineering. Her passion for HE gave her the opportunity to be a Spring 2018 Shultz Scholar and work with faculty as the HE Programming Coordinator and graduated from the Mines Peace Corps Prep Program.

Hannah recognized learning about sustainable community development in the classroom serves as a great starting point for these ideas, but found herself with the desire to apply the HE concepts she had learned about. She is currently serving as a Peace Corps Education Volunteer in Tanzania teaching physics to high school age students. Being an education volunteer gives her a unique position to work closely with both the educators of Tanzania and the youth that is the country’s future.

Still in the beginning of her service she is working to integrate into her community to gain a better understanding of what projects may be feasible and desired by her community and school. She has been using tools such as community mapping, continued learning of local languages as to have conversations with community members about what they see as challenges and opportunities in their community, as well as finding a community counterpart that will partner with her on future projects and ensure their sustainability after her service ends.

Feel free to reach out to her about serving in the Peace Corps or any HE related questions at hjewess@alumni.mines.edu or check out her website (beautifulmuskox.wordpress.com).

Wolf Reichard

Graduated as Mechanical Engineering from Mines in May 2018

Over the course of his Humanitarian Engineering (HE) studies and Mines, Wolf was able to work on an incredible number of real-world projects. From home heating systems for the Peruvian highlands to Solar Drip irrigation layouts for Uganda, there was never a dull moment while Wolf was in the HE program.

Ending his time at Mines with an HE sponsored trip to Peru to implement his team’s Capstone project, Wolf graduated with the HE minor and a Peace Corp prep Certificate in 2018, and was landed a job as a Human Centered Designer with iDE Mozambique (a direct result of the work he did in HE classes).

Wolf has been in Chimoio, Mozambique for about a month now, has already installed three large greenhouses, and, between user interviews and installations, traveled to 4 of the country’s 10 provinces. He is currently working with iDE’s international Design team and in-country leadership to determine the best method for starting a WASH initiative in Mozambique while also working on existing programs focused on market linkages for smallholder farmers.

Wolf cannot speak highly enough of the HE curriculum. Every day, he refers to articles, tools and resources the program connected him with. He says, “I still carry my Human Centered Problem Definition and Projects for People notebooks with me everywhere that I go. I’m using them as roadmap for the projects I’m working on every day… the user interview skills I learned in Engineers Engaging Communities come into play nearly every day. If it weren’t for my HE courses, I’d be completely lost.”

He’s also looking forward to meeting up with his friend and fellow Shultz Scholar Hannah Jewess who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in neighboring Tanzania

Liz Tomon

Graduated as Chemical Engineering from Mines in May 2018

Right now I’m working in Albany, GA with Procter & Gamble. My exact role is Papermaking Project Engineer, but really it’s more like Training Engineer (AKA I’m just learning so much!). I use principles and strategies I learned in HE everyday. A good example is the Manual / Technical split you learn about throughout the curriculum, I had never seen the inside of a motor or understood why we pick one kind of pump over another. Understanding that this split exists has helped me to stay humble and be vulnerable when it comes to asking for help. A lot of engineers come into the workforce thinking that because they got a degree, they know everything; this is far from true. Theoretical and manual aspects of engineering are equally as important. I’m so, so, so serious when I say that HE was the best thing that ever happened to me – not only because I loved all of the courses I took, but also because it helped me with life. HE gave me the opportunity to be open to different ideas and view points of the world.
I’m currently keeping up with HE principles by reading and having long discussions with my friends who are still in school. Albany recently had a Category 2 hurricane rip through town, so in my free time I have been helping people clean up their yards. In my free time, I hang out with my new friends, travel all around the south, and avoid cockroaches. I’m currently trying to find a middle school girls basketball team to help coach.
If you are at all on the fence about HE or are already deeply involved and want a friend who can give you perspective of how it is working in a huge company please reach out to me; I love to talk.

Rosalie O’Brien

Graduated as Environmental Engineering in May 2018

Rosalie O’Brien is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Colorado School of Mines.  She works on a multidisciplinary National Science Foundation research project that focuses on artisanal and small-scale gold mining communities in Colombia and Peru.  As an environmental engineer, her interests are directed at hazardous waste contamination in the environment and co-creating remediation strategies with mining communities to clean up various contaminants of concern, such as mercury and cyanide. Her research project will take her to Colombia during the summer of 2019, where she will work with and live in the communities that this project targets.  She has also worked as a lead research assistant for a non-governmental organization, examining the nexus between armed conflict and artisanal and small-scale mining. Her passion for protecting the natural environment stems from her love of the Rocky Mountains. When she’s not working on her graduate work, you can probably find her deep in the mountains hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, white water rafting, backpacking, or hugging a great big Aspen tree.

Kellen Malone

Graduated as Engineering Physics from Mines in May 2018

Hello! My name is Kellen and I am currently a graduate student in physics and a recent graduate from the Humanitarian Engineering program. I got involved in humanitarian work after returning from a 2 week volunteer trip in Nepal with Hike for Help sophomore year, and I’ve tried to be involved in humanitarian projects ever since. I’ve been a part of Mines Without Borders intermittently as an undergraduate, working on a water distribution system in Nicaragua. I’ve also co-started a program at Mines that brings a few students during summers to teach math and science and work on engineering projects in Tanzania at an NGO that runs a technical college for village students. I am interested in applying engineering and physics concepts through a humanitarian lens, as well as improving the housing situation in Golden, CO. For senior design I worked on a project researching the environmental impact of above-ground nuclear bomb tests in Colorado from the Nevada Test Cite. At this time, my master’s thesis is focused on developing a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly method of refrigeration compared to vapor compression technology. Going through the humanitarian engineering program has helped me learn how to gauge the impact of engineering and physics projects, as well as how to steer projects towards more humanitarian goals. (That can be boiled down to “listen to people”) 

Micaela Pedrazas

Graduated as  Geophysical Engineering from Mines in May 2017. I am currently pursuing a Masters of Science in Hydrogeology at University of Texas at Austin to carry out geophysical surveys to better understand the surface water-ground water interactions between lakes and groundwater aquifers. My research can be applied to help prevent and mitigate contamination in third world countries where mining is active such as my homecountry,  Bolivia, where arsenic contamination is present. I seek to co-create solutions to a variety of challenges our Earth is currently facing with communities that are most affect by them. I find myself applying several of the engineering and community sustainable development principles I learned at Mines as I move forward designing my masters thesis. 

Michelle Pedrazas

Graduated as  Geophysical Engineering from Mines in May 2017

Michelle Pedrazas graduated with a B.S. in Geophysical Engineering and a minor in Humanitarian Engineering from Colorado School of Mines in May 2017. She participated in characterizing an aquifer in La Paz, Bolivia with Geoscientists Without Borders using geophysical techniques. She worked closely with communities to better understand what was already known regarding the aquifer beneath and to raise awareness on the potential outcomes of the project. She then worked as an exploration geophysicist for six months before beginning graduate school at University of Texas at Austin in Geological Sciences with the objective of better understanding water dynamics in the near-surface. The impact of understanding how water moves in the Critical Zone ranges from risk mitigation (flooding, landslides) to characterizing the preferential path of water and solutes.

Nate Dauth

Mines graduate Nate Dauth has long been interested in international development. A few years back he helped found the Mines student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (now known as Mines Without Borders) — and made several construction trips to Nicaragua as a result.

EWB, he says, was “one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. The club gave me the opportunity to apply myself, allowed me to explore a new corner of the world, and showed me how a small group of inspired students can make a big difference.”

Nate adds that the club “provides incredible opportunities to learn and grow and I highly recommend that anyone join, especially if they’re interested in humanitarian engineering or development work.”

While not an official Humanitarian Engineering student himself, Nate calls the HE course Engineering and Sustainable Community Development “the most rewarding class I ever took in college.”

Development, he discovered, is not just a matter of getting the technology right. You have to understand the cultural context as well. “Learning the context of why sustainable development is the way it is today was eye opening and it motivated me to continue learning about SCD. It was engaging, informative, and very much relevant to what I do now.”

After graduation from Mines, Nate served as a Peace Corps volunteer (or PCV) in Paraguay, stationed in idyllic Capilla Cué east of the capital Asuncion, returning in 2016. The area’s hills, forests, streams and waterfalls (left) give it the nickname “Eden of the Cordillera.” His assignment involved environmental issues, including working with a farmer’s organization to conserve fragile local soils. He also worked with a local youth group to take up conservation issues.

Molly Jane Roby (neé Perkins)

For recent Humanitarian Engineering Program graduate Molly Jane Roby (neé Perkins), the biggest storms used to come in June. “Right now it is time to batten down the hatches,” she once wrote. “The rains have started and they are gathering momentum. We get a storm about every 2 or 3 days. It builds up after an intense day of heat, with dark storm clouds over Togo, to the north-east of Zabzugu. The clouds move west within less than an hour, and the downpour begins.”

In 2012, Molly and her husband Seth left Colorado to become Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana. (They finished their service in May 2014.)

Molly calls the Humanitarian Engineering capstone course, Engineering and Sustainable Community Development, the “best class” she ever took at Mines. It was, she says, the “class that prepared me for development work as an engineer.”

“I guess the biggest takeaway I had from the Humanitarian Engineering Program is that development work (through HE) is not about showing people a new technology that they should use, but rather working with the people to understand what they need and show them that they can develop their own tools and technologies out of their own knowledge and local resources.”

Later on, Molly and Seth became Peace Corps volunteer leaders, chosen from among their peers for their exemplary work and knowledge of community development.

You can read all about their Peace Corps experience in their blog, The Robys Go to Ghana. And don’t miss Molly’s “10 Things I Take for Granted Living in Zabzugu.”