When getting involved with the CU-Boulder chapter of Bridges to Prosperity, not only do students have the opportunity to test their engineering skills but they also have a chance to improve the lives of others.
Nonprofit Bridges to Prosperity builds bridges in developing communities where the people of rural areas cannot access critical services, such as health care facilities, schools and markets, during the rainy season, says Garrett Sprouse, a senior majoring in environmental engineering and member of the CU-Boulder Bridges to Prosperity chapter. In Bolivia, which is the focus of the CU-Boulder chapter, the rivers can swell up to 20 feet, but the pedestrian footbridges allow the locals access to all of the necessities.
From fundraising and design to fabrication, students are involved in each step of the bridge-building process, Sprouse says. Much of Bridges to Prosperity’s capital comes from grants and private donations, but the students also put on a large fundraiser with a silent auction, raffle and live music as well as smaller events on campus. By involving themselves throughout the entire process, students gain a well-rounded experience of what it takes to successfully fund and implement a project of this level.
“We do everything ourselves, which is a great experience,” Sprouse says. “We fundraise for the bridge, write grants and conduct public outreach to tell people and what we do and who we are. The students even design the bridges and go over and build them.”
Once the students complete the design, Bridges to Prosperity’s advisory board, which is made up of the industry’s leading experts, looks over the plan to ensure it is safe and functional, Sprouse says. This provides students with insight into how their academic knowledge translates to real-life applications while also giving them the chance to network with major industry players.
“It’s a great opportunity to see how the engineering industry works, and you get to meet a lot of great people who are high up in the industry,” Sprouse says. “Bridges to Prosperity allows me to take what I’ve learned in school and apply it somewhere else in the world. You’re really making a difference and making people’s lives better.”
Ready to put her classroom knowledge to the test, Ashlee Broadus, a senior majoring in architectural engineering with an electrical lighting focus, accepted an internship position with HLB Engineering in its San Diego office as part of the IMPACT Internship Scholarship Program last summer.
During her time with HLB, Broadus had the opportunity to work on lighting layouts, CAD, AIG and budget pricing, but Broadus’ major project involved creating a lighting design for the San Diego International Airport. Broadus specifically focused on the aiming portion of the lighting design, which gave her plenty of opportunities to put her knowledge to work. Before Broadus and the HLB team went on-site, they made a lighting plan through programming and what they thought would work based on the chosen lights. Then, they had to make aiming changes based on the surrounding elements.
“We had to look at the glare, so people walking into the space didn’t have lights shining in their faces,” Broadus says. “There were palm trees at the ends of the area, and we had to account for them blocking some light and then lighting them, as well. Artwork also hung from ceiling, which needed lighting to showcase it.”
Broadus believes her internship experience was especially valuable because it showed her what to expect when she enters the work force. Prior to the internship, Broadus had enjoyed her academic experience, specifically her Illumination II class with Senior Instructor Sandra Vàsconez, but she was still unsure how that would translate to being in the field. Now Broadus is confident she has the knowledge it takes to succeed on a professional level when she graduates in May 2014.
“I was really nervous before I went to the internship because I didn’t fully know what to expect, but I’m confident I can go into this profession and know what I’m doing based on all the knowledge I acquired from HLB,” Broadus says.
As an undergraduate, Griego spent a semester studying abroad and learning Spanish in Guadalajara, Mexico. After completing her BS in architectural engineering with an emphasis in lighting and mechanical systems, Griego continued on to earn a master’s degree in civil engineering through CU’s building systems engineering program. For her thesis, she collaborated with the University of Guanajuato on an energy-efficiency project in Salamanca, Mexico.
Following her graduation in 2011, Griego accepted a position at the Energy Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where she works with faculty, government officials, local industry partners and international academic partners on various building energy efficiency initiatives.
One project she manages seeks to improve the energy efficiency of campus laboratories, which tend to guzzle energy because of the fume hoods and other specialized equipment.
“Our goal is to understand more accurately how much energy is used for cooling,” Griego explains, pointing out that while similar studies have been conducted in the United States, the cooling load is much higher in Singapore where the humidity hovers between 80 and 100 percent.
Griego has always been interested in how humans can reduce their impact on the environment. She found that architectural engineering provided an avenue for a career focusing on energy efficiency.
“Our industry is absolutely focused on sustainability, energy efficiency and green technology,” she says, noting that building science is a growing industry with a lot of opportunity. “As the cost of energy goes up and the depletion of resources increases, it’s going to be much more pressing for us to design and operate our buildings more efficiently. There’s always going to be a demand for buildings – and the engineers that make them work.”
Griego recalls that as a student she loved the intellectual atmosphere of Boulder and the diverse experiences of the people in the city and at CU.
“I really value the energy of the people in Boulder and in the Architectural Engineering Program. I felt like people were excited and motivated and energized about what they were learning, and had a passion about what they were doing beyond just getting their degree.”
Griego says living and working abroad have been valuable adventures that have taught her independence and self-reliance.
“I think the most interesting thing about being in Singapore is being a part of a truly international environment,” she says. “You have people from every country on the globe, and you begin to understand that in America everything is focused around the U.S. while in other countries, people really see themselves as a small part of a big world.”
Among all engineering disciplines, civil engineering is expected to experience the most job growth in the upcoming years, according to estimated figures by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The research also finds that one-third of civil engineers are employed by local, state and federal government agencies. Civil engineers are in high demand among construction, architectural and engineering firms, as well. In 2010, the annual mean wage for civil engineers was $84,140.
In Denver, the hiring outlook for civil engineers is one of the best in the country, the BLS finds. The annual mean wage is $85,190, slightly above the national average, and Denver ranks ninth in the country for metropolitan areas with the highest employment level in civil engineering.
Another survey by the National Association of Colleges finds that engineers overall are in high demand. In fact, the average starting salary for engineering graduates hit $62,062, marking a 2.3 percent gain. This figure is higher than all other categories. Still, engineering employment does differ by specialty and can be impacted by foreign outsourcing and government spending cutbacks. In today’s market, more employers are bringing on engineers as contractors, which can be influenced by business cycles.
In his new role, Linden, who has been involved in the research and development of UV technology since the early 1990s, plans to work with the IUVA’s board of directors and members to provide unique educational opportunities and improve regions beyond North America through the use of UV technology. While doing so, Linden is expected to work jointly with partner organizations and create new industry alliances.
“I look forward to engaging the passions of our board of directors and membership in creating programs, webinars and essential educational content for the organization and our constituencies,” Linden says.
Following Linden’s term, Kati Bell, an environmental engineer and principal with CDM Smith in Nashville, will take over the president role for IUVA in 2015. Bell has experience working with water and wastewater treatment facilities and graduated from Vanderbilt University and Tennessee Technological University.