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.

A team of four sophomore students placed first (out of 41 Mines teams) in a Colorado School of Mines Intro to Mechanical Engineering (MEGN200) Wind Station Competition May 5. The team, Stormtroopers, had 2.5 weeks to design, build and program a weather station that was capable of measuring wind speed, temperature and two variables of their choice. Mechanical Engineering students Geordie Campbell, Aaron Fanganello, David Harper and Alicia Helmer created their system with a Star Wars theme, using Legos and an innovative homemade sensor.

“The Stormtroopers used every sensor that was provided to them and purchased additional Arduinos and sensors to use as well,” said Teaching Associate Professor Jenifer Blacklock. “They were very energetic and knowledgeable about their system, and it was clear that they had worked hard and spent numerous hours designing, building and programming their final wind station.”

To measure wind speed, the team 3D printed an anemometer (or windmeter) that they fixed on a rotor shaft of a remote controlled helicopter.

“At the base of the helicopter, we had two brush connections—one that made constant contact and one that made an interrupted contact. This allowed us to count the number of times the circuit was completed and convert that into wind speed,” Campbell said. “We measured temperature in conjunction with a new digital barometric pressure sensor, a BMP 180 chip.”

The top three to four teams from each section of the course were invited to compete in the Wind Station Competition, and were judged by faculty, ME undergraduate and graduate students on four main qualifications: a technically advanced system, appropriate user feedback, creativity and overall aesthetics. Students on the winning team received a $50 gift card to SparkFun, an electronics store.


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

Kathleen Smits is a Civil and Environmental Engineering assistant professor at Colorado School of Mines. Smits has been interested in the environment from an early age and her interest for engineering grew as she advanced throughout her college career, but there are some things about Smits that you might not have known.

1. She is currently a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves

Smits was on active duty in the Air Force for eight years; for three years, she taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Currently she is an operations research analyst in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, working part time at U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

“At Mines I study current and emerging environmental problems that are of interest to our nation and the world using both analysis and experimentation. In the Air Force, I do the same thing for different problems and applications. A lot of the understanding and training that I have from being a scientist directly applies to what I do in the military.”

2. She has been scuba diving 150 times

As one of her first jobs out of college, Smits worked with the National Aquarium in Baltimore to help replant eelgrass in the Chesapeake Bay, a job requiring lots of underwater time. 

Since then, Smits has been on several scuba diving trips, mostly in the Caribbean but also in Japan and Hawaii.

Smits also enjoys sailing with her family, starting trips either in Lake Michigan or the Grenadines Islands.

“I love every minute I’m either in or under the water, which is ironic because even though I study water, I focus mostly on water availability in dry, arid regions.”

3. She’s lived all over the place

Smits grew up in Pennsylvania and went to high school in Illinois. She studied Environmental Engineering as an undergraduate student in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and then studied Civil Engineering–Water Resources at the University of Texas in Austin. While in the Air Force, Smits deployed to a military base in Saudi Arabia for about six months and lived in both Virginia and Colorado.

“When I came to Mines to do my PhD, I realized that I really love teaching but I equally love the research. That’s why I wanted to work and contribute at a university like Mines that has both a research and teaching focus.”

4. She loves running and has a top three list of the most beautiful places to run:

  • Zion National Park, Utah

    Since high school, Smits has been an avid runner. Whenever her family took her to a national park for a vacation, she didn’t hesitate to use it as an excuse to go running.

  • Nakuru, Kenya

    “There are giraffes and chimpanzees all over the roads that I had to dodge to run down the street. If you run in a straight line, you’ll hit a large animal!”

  • Diablerets, Switzerland

    During a research conference in a small, ski town in the Swiss Alps, Smits went for morning runs along a river that runs from the glaciers through the town.

    “Where the path ends, there is a road that passes by all the farms with the sheep and cattle to keep you company. What a beautiful place!”

5. Her favorite hobby is photography

Smits started taking photos regularly seven years ago when her daughter, Elizabeth, was born. Now Elizabeth is immune to her mom taking photos and poses regularly when Smits has her camera around.

Smits also enjoys playing around with Photoshop to make her photos appear different than the original.

“I also water color to get the other side of my brain work.”

Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Kathleen Smits has been teaching at Colorado School of Mines for three and a half years, but began her journey at Mines in 2007, when she was a PhD candidate. Smits currently teaches Hazardous Waste Site Remediation, Fluid Mechanics and Environmental Pollution.

Smits is working with fellow CEE professor Tissa Illangasekare on studying natural gas leakage from oil and gas production into the environment. She is also one of two Mines recipients of the 2015 NSF CAREER Award, in which she aims to advance the science and education of land surface-atmosphere interactions.


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


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