By: HIXON CENTER STAFF and ESW/MOSS STUDENTS
The Hixon Center recently sponsored four ESW/MOSS students to attend the annual Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) National Conference, at the University of Texas, Austin, from April 6th to April 9th. Olivia Schneble (’17), Paige Rinnert (’17), Jasmine Seo (’20), and Veronica Cortes (’20) represented Harvey Mudd’s ESW Chapter, and had the opportunity to present some of ESW’s work on campus, as well as to attend conference sessions and network with students from other chapters.
Engineers for a Sustainable World and Mudders Organizing for Sustainability Solutions (ESW/MOSS) is a student organization at Harvey Mudd devoted to promoting sustainability both on campus and around the world through projects and community education. They are always looking for new and exciting ways to promote sustainability on the Harvey Mudd campus as well as in the broader community.
Here are what the students had to say about their time in at the conference:
Paige Rinnert (’17)
The most inspiring part of the ESW national conference was getting to meet and interact with students from across the country who are dedicated, creative, and passionate about creating sustainable solutions.
We heard about the aquaponics project at UT Austin that aims to create sustainable ecosystems of fish and plants using hydroponics and aquaculture. We even got to visit their greenhouse and see the project in action! It’s inspiring to see how much students can achieve with such dedication to a project. I saw creativity in action during the Sustainability Buildstorm session, where we developed quick and dirty prototypes of solutions to sustainability problems. To produce energy in the wilderness, my group made an inflatable wind turbine from balloons and a shoe add-on (half of a paper cup) that would generate energy while you walk using a piezo-electric device (a Lego) and store the energy in a mini battery pack (playdoh). In the Inter Chapter Challenge, teams of students competed to plan the best Olympic village in our assigned city for the next Olympic games. Everyone was so passionate about their solution and worked hard to consider aspects of the local climate and culture in their design.
All these events showed me how dedicated students can come up with creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges when they are passionate about the subject. I hope here at Mudd going forward we can get students excited about sustainability efforts and use our skills to develop solutions to big problems.
Olivia Schneble (’17)
The 2017 conference in Austin was my second ESW National Conference and as a senior I knew people in several other chapters and on the ESW-HQ team. One of the most important parts for me of being part of ESW is the network I have built of both professional acquaintances and friends. This conference heavily emphasized the inter-chapter challenges, where we worked with teams of students from all different chapters to design sustainable Olympic Villages. I learned to use autodesk 360 CAD software during these challenges. The most exciting session I was in was a presentation by the Land Art Generators Initiative, which is a group that runs design competitions for public art that generates clean electricity. Designs I especially liked included a solar panel duck and giant grass stalks that generate electricity from wind. I also learned a lot from the poster session. We presented on our CLGP project during the session, but I also was able to see students building piezoelectric generators around their campuses and other exciting technical projects. The Illinois Institute of Technology chapter also had good advice from their community garden, which was rented by both students and community members, for our garden here at Mudd. Finally, I spoke to members of ESW-HQ, who suggested I work for them after graduation. I might take a volunteer position with them to continue my involvement in the organization after I graduate.
Veronica Cortes (’20)
While attending the ESW National Conference in Austin, Texas, I learned a couple of key lessons from the other chapters in attendance: projects of daunting scale can still be completed even with small chapters with a limited budget with good management; and, there are many management techniques that can be used to help chapters retain old members, attract new members, and operate successfully throughout the semester and successive school years.
The most inspiring presentation I listened to was: “Sustainable Design” – Autodesk gave a short tutorial introducing Fusion 360 which is 3D CAD software that combines features from different Autodesk software packages to create software that can be used throughout the design process from ideation to machining to sharing. I was delighted by the range of applications the software could be used for, taking some features from other software I’ve used like Inventor or Maya and combining it into one aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly experience. I was particularly intrigued by the simulation component that allows users to simulate different stress tests based on the material used in the different components of the part/assembly. The speaker also mentioned a program that sounded really interesting: the Pier 9 design studio Artist-in-Residency program which hosts makers and gives them access to all kinds of manufacturing equipment to work on projects (perhaps with the intention of making tutorials for others about how to use the manufacturing equipment or make the project). It’s inspiring to see how technology can be used to sustainably design products and provide access to that technology to more people, and it would be fun to contribute to the creative community of Fusion 360 and teach others how to make my designs.
The most helpful presentation I listened to was: “Effective Communication in Sustainable Engineering” – an interesting aspect of this presentation talked about “creating a compelling story” to get stakeholders to buy into the idea of sustainability. One method of doing so is through company sustainability reports. Sustainability reports are documents showing a business’s sustainability performance. While they are already business standard, some businesses leverage more accessible and interesting mediums through which to appear to consumers like the “Let’s Get Frank” video series. The speaker also ended on the important note to be patient with different understandings of sustainability. The speaker began his talk by asking what sustainability is and the room gave several different answers. The overarching significance of this became most noticeable when he pointed out that just in that room – where the diversity of ideas of sustainability may be relatively low since everyone presumably has a strong interest in sustainability – there were still several different understandings of sustainability. Imagining how diverse the opinions of sustainability are in a business or political context, it made me glad that the speaker emphasized that engineers should try to be patient and hear out different understandings of sustainability rather than only acting based on their own.
ESW/MOSS was also recognized as an outstanding chapter by the national organization for their great work on-campus and in the Claremont community!
Jasmine Seo (’20)
One of the most exciting events at the ESW National Conference was the chapter leadership summit. As future leaders of ESW/MOSS, Veronica and I attended the session, where we got to share the sustainability-related projects going on at Harvey Mudd and learn about what ESW chapters at other colleges, such as UCSD and University of Texas at Austin, were doing. Some colleges were running fundraisers, such as hosting a color run or selling trail mixes or succulents to raise money for their projects. UCSD was working on filters in rivers that trap solid waste to keep them from flowing into the ocean. Cal State Long Beach students shared their experience hosting a regional ESW conference, and also thanked HMC students for attending. Later in the day, UT Austin students gave us a quick tour of the greenhouse run by the ESW and Aquaponics club. Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics, allowing farmed fish to provide nutrients to the hydroponically grown plants and the plants to purify the water. Connecting with other ESW chapters at conference inspired me to think of future projects ESW/MOSS can work on, and I look forward to working with Mudders to make our campus greener.
The Hixon Center congratulates ESW/MOSS for the recognition received and for so positively representing Harvey Mudd College at the national conference in Austin this year! If you’d like to learn more about ESW/MOSS and how to get involved (especially going into next year), you can check out their website.