Mounir Zok, senior sports technologist for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), was researching how boxers moved during a match through video taken by an overhead camera suspended in a boxing ring, when he got an idea that evolved into a Colorado School of Mines field session project.

“We are constantly thinking about how can we help coaches and athletes make the best informed decision through current technology,” Zok said. “Because gymnasts are performing coded actions, their movements are ideal to be measured and analyzed.”

In December, Zok met Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professors Bill Hoff and Hao Zhang and computer science graduate student Brian Reily to observe male gymnasts and collect performance data with computer vision technology—a Microsoft Kinect v2 camera. The color camera uses a depth sensor and microphone array to sense the location and movements of people.

Within a few months, Reily was able to take their results to develop a method to track gymnasts and produce data on their performances.

“It was a great opportunity to collect a unique type of data. I'm working on human detection and pose estimation, and pretty much all existing data out there is collected in a lab,” said Reily. “Collecting this data and publishing it as a dataset would actually be pretty important just on it's own.”

Reily requested the help of four Mines students and USOC coaches to add features—such as tracking gymnasts to create useful data visualizations for both gymnasts and coaches. Computer science students Austin Kauffman, Zac McClain, Evan Balogh and Travis Johnson took Reily’s data to build an app that could record and analyze a routine, playback video, and provide performance statistics.

“I’ve always been interested in computer science and bioinformatics,” said McClain. “I would like to use this project to get into a more active area of computer science.”

The Computer Science field session team, advised by Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Teaching Associate Professor Christopher Painter-Wakefield, sees their app advancing in the future if more features could be added, such as color video playback, consistent frame rates and angle tracking.

“We’ve had students involved in our projects for the last year and a half. The engineering talent coming from Colorado School of Mines is helping us gain insights into some of our sports programs,” Zok said. “These students are scientifically prepared to face the challenge.” The USOC has also been working with Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Joel Bach and a senior design team to develop other technologies to help further athlete development and training.


Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 /
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 /

As part of a summer workshop hosted by Colorado School of Mines, 18 of the top female first year students from the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi participated in a hands-on “Engineering by Doing” course that was designed to allow the students to use teamwork as well as creative, critical thinking skills to design an optimal solution to an open-ended problem.

The campus visit was a collaborative effort of the Mines Engineering Practices Introductory Course Sequence (EPICS) Program, Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies, Office of International Programs, and Office of Strategic Enterprises.

The women visited campus July 20-Aug. 1. Between lectures and discussions, the students also traveled to Denver, the Edgar Mine in Idaho Springs, Vail and Colorado Springs. In Golden, students hiked South Table Mountain and attended Buffalo Bill Days.

“We wanted to create something that was interactive,” said Mirna Mattjik, Humanitarian Engineering Program Coordinator, who led the workshop with EPICS adjunct instructor Melanie Brandt and Corporate Social Responsibility Program Manager Benjamin Teschner. “We decided these students should have a combined experience of fun excursions while learning about User Centered Design.”

At the end of the two weeks, the women learned how to apply appropriate technical knowledge to solve social problems associated with the development of a mining or oil and gas project for client Ray Priestly (president of the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association.) They also were able to assess the needs of stakeholders and incorporate their feedback into the design process.

Mines has collaborated with the Petroleum Institute since 2000, and through the years the partnership has migrated into cooperative research on an array of projects affecting upstream exploration and production and pedagogy in engineering education. Read more at


Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 /
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 /

GOLDEN, Colo., June 10, 2015 – The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced awards totaling more than $60 million for U.S. universities including Colorado School of Mines, national laboratories, and industry, for nuclear energy research and infrastructure enhancement with the potential to create scientific breakthroughs that both help strengthen the nation’s energy security and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Visit student Laine Greaves-Smith in his garage, and you will find him buried in an assortment of sprockets, gears, pipes, bearings, aluminum, steel and transmission chains. He is using recycled car parts to create functional art pieces, such as a chandelier, table, lamp or vase. Instead of heading to a furniture store, Greaves-Smith, who is studying both mechanical and electrical engineering, sifts through his garage for inspiration and begins stacking and welding pieces together until he creates a design.

“It’s important for engineers to look at problems differently than how they’re taught in class,” said Greaves-Smith. “I get enough numbers in classes, so this helps me de-stress and use my hands.”

Greaves-Smith originally attended Webster University for technical theater design but transferred to Mines because he “missed the challenge of advanced courses.” However, some of his most rewarding experiences have occurred outside of class.

When Greaves-Smith was constructing a battle axe, he teamed up with Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Teaching Associate Professor Gerald Bourne to study the best way to strengthen the steel. In Bourne's lab, Greaves-Smith created micrographs of the treated and untreated steel to analyze the internal structure of each sample.

This past fall, he collaborated with Mechanical Engineering Teaching Associate Professor Robert Amaro to determine the best bearings for all seven moving parts of a table he was constructing. He then worked in the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences machine shop in Brown Hall to fabricate the precision parts required for the design. 

“I enjoy using car parts because there are so many beautifully engineered and crafted components inside a car that most people never see,” said Greaves-Smith. “By putting these components out in the open as art, more people can appreciate the craftsmanship of each piece and that of my assembly.”

In April, Greaves-Smith received third place in in Longmont's EcoCreations 6 juried exhibition for his chandelier piece, which was made up of bike chains and a bike wheel. In February, he showcased some of his collection at the First Friday Art Walk in Denver.

Greaves-Smith recently returned from competing with the Blasterbotica team in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition where they placed second in the presentation and demonstration category. This summer, he has an internship at Kurion (founded by Mines alumnus Marc Rood ’03), where he will be designing and assembling robots to help clean up contaminated reactor sites at Fukushima.


Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 /
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 /

Benjamin Wallen, a Colorado School of Mines PhD candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering, was recently awarded a Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) scholarship to further his research in landmine detection. He has also been awarded a G.A. Harris Research Instrumentation Fellowship by Decagon Devices.

His research aims to improve landmine detection by characterizing the environmental conditions in the vicinity of a landmine emplacement location. Wallen, who is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, spoke to Assistant Professor Kathleen Smits in 2012 just before leaving for his third tour in Iraqi.

“She convinced me that Mines is where I wanted to be, and I’m forever grateful,” said Wallen. Smits is now his advisor.

“Over 2,000 people are killed or maimed by landmines each month. The UN has named them the largest man-made hazard, and they’re still a significant problem in over 70 countries. It’s an honor to contribute to the research that will help us improve how we find them,” explained Wallen.

By studying how the air and atmosphere right above the ground are affected when disturbed by the burial of a landmine, researchers can use characteristics such as heat transfer, saturation, soil moisture and temperature to model the effect of a buried landmine and enhance the algorithms used to detect them.

The SAME scholarship will allow Wallen to spend two weeks at the Engineer Research and Develop Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the U.S. Army has been conducting research on mine detection for more than a decade.

“The opportunity to work at the ERDC field sites with buried mines will enable me to validate my findings,” said Wallen.

Only six Harris fellowships are awarded annually, providing $30,000 worth of Decagon research instruments. “The Harris fellowship from Decagon will better equip my sand tank so we can understand more fully what is happening when there is a disturbance in the soil. I only have a year left before I finish my PhD and want to make the most of my time to advance the research being done,” said Wallen.

After Wallen finishes his PhD next spring, he will return to his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he will teach in the department of Geology and Environmental Engineering.

“This is just the beginning of a great partnership between Mines and ERDC,” Wallen said. “Even when I am at West Point, I look forward to connecting my students to what ERDC needs and the research happening at Mines.”


Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 |
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 |

GOLDEN, Colo., May 12, 2015 – Congratulations to the following Colorado School of Mines students who received awards at the Student Life Awards Luncheon May 7.

Outstanding Student Service Award

Presented to a student(s) who went above and beyond their academic role on campus to vigorously participate in activities or projects that benefit their fellow students and the Mines community.


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