Environment

Students at Colorado School of Mines, Metropolitan State University of Denver and University of Colorado Denver are helping tackle a major problem facing urban waterways in Denver and beyond.

Trash.

“Every week, crews that work up and down mostly the South Platte River pull out enough trash to fill a 30-cubic-yard dumpster,” said Devon Buckels, director of The Water Connection, the water resources and policy initiative of The Greenway Foundation in Denver. “That’s the equivalent of seven pickup truck loads.”

In dollars, that amounts to $1.25 million spent every year in Denver alone manually picking up trash from rivers and streams, she said.

But what if a device could be placed in stream to do that same work – more effectively and at lower cost? 

That was the question posed to the six student teams from three universities competing in the finals of the Clean River Design Challenge on April 10 – including two Capstone Design teams from Mines.

Each team received $1,000 to build a working scaled prototype of an in-stream trash removal device for testing in a specially built flume at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Hydraulics Lab in the Denver Federal Center. The winning team would get the opportunity to see their design become a full-scale pilot program in a section of Cherry Creek in Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood. 

The results were six very different designs, with Go with the Float, a screened conveyor belt system from one of the Mines teams, claiming second-place honors. The overall winner was a team from MSU Denver.

“The system we have now is manual pickup and it’s not working,” Buckels said. “On April 21, we’re doing a river sweep – over 500 volunteers are going to be working sections of South Platte River, picking up trash manually – but it’s only a Band-Aid solution. A week later, you can walk that stretch of river and the trash will be back.”

In the finals, all of the student designs were subject to low- and high-flow tests in the flume, with packing peanuts, plastic wrappers, deflated balloons and tiny plastic bottles simulating the types of trash that gum up urban waterways. In addition to the amount of trash collected, designs were also judged on their impact to the river, ease of installation and maintenance and aesthetics.

Go with the Float’s electric-powered moving screened ramp pulled the tiny trash up out of the water as it floated by, dropping it into a chute leading to a single collection point at the rear of the device. At full scale, the collection bin could hold roughly 50 pounds of trash and would have sensors to notify maintenance crews if it reached capacity prior to the regularly scheduled pickup. 

“The big thing we were going for was making it easy for the maintenance workers who would be dealing with this every day. We don’t want anyone in the water,” said Bud Ortega, a member of Team Go with the Float and a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. “At the end of the day, we wanted to take a daylong job for multiple people and make it something that can be done in 20 minutes.”

Also on the team were Morgan Farmer (environmental engineering), Evan Lukens (mechanical engineering), Mason Manross (environmental engineering), Adiya Saginova (mechanical engineering), Dan Scott (civil engineering) and Jayce Stricherz (environmental engineering). 

The other Mines team, Dream Stream, earned first place in the challenge’s initial design round last semester but didn’t fare quite as well in the finals. In the test flume, much of the trash swirled past the floating planter boxes that were intended to funnel trash and debris toward the system's paddlewheel collection point. Still, the team felt the test went well.

“The proof of concept was there – the execution just wasn’t there yet,” said Brendan Aleksivich, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

“Trial and error is key,” said teammate and fellow mechanical engineering senior Henry Myers. “A lot of it is just figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.”

Also on Team Dream Stream were Brielle Asato (environmental engineering), Daniel Martinez (environmental engineering), Ian Miller (environmental engineering) and Zhongwei Teng (mechanical engineering).

Now in its second year, the goal of the Clean River Design Challenge is to raise awareness about the urban waterway trash problem and try to develop innovative solutions, Buckels said.

Sponsoring the event this year were The Gateway Fund of The Denver Foundation, Denver Water, Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, ECI Construction, DHM Design, Wright Water Engineers and STEAM on the Platte.

“Students are innovative and smart and creative and they come up with things that the rest of us may not,” Buckels said. “There’s a tremendous value in allowing them to apply their smarts and skills to solve this problem. They’re motivated to try.”

CONTACT
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Morgan Bazilian
 
Morgan Bazilian, former lead energy specialist at the World Bank, will join Colorado School of Mines in February as the executive director of the Payne Institute for Earth Resources and research professor of public policy.
 
As the Institute's inaugural executive director, Dr. Bazilian will be responsible for guiding and disseminating its policy-focused research and analysis, serving as the intellectual leader of the organization, which is dedicated to informing and shaping sound public policy on earth resources, energy and the environment. 
 
Named in honor of longtime energy executive Jim Payne '59 and his wife, Arlene, in recognition of their $5 million investment in 2015, the Payne Institute conducts cutting-edge quantitative policy analysis and educates current and future leaders on the security, governance and policy challenges presented by the rapid changes being witnessed in the energy, environment and natural resource sectors. 

"We look forward to achieving Jim and Arlene's vision for the Payne Institute under Morgan's leadership," said Mines President Paul C. Johnson. "Today more than ever, our nation and the world need honest and objective brokers of information and venues to have productive, balanced and science-informed public policy discussions, especially related to earth, energy and the environment. Through the Payne Institute and Morgan's leadership, Mines is positioned to play a leadership role both nationally and internationally." 

A widely recognized expert in energy and natural resources planning, investment, security, governance and international affairs, Bazilian has more than two decades of experience in commercial, academic and government settings. He is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Advisory Council on Energy and serves on the Global Advisory Council of the Sustainable Finance Programme at Oxford University. Prior to the World Bank, he was a deputy director at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and a senior diplomat at the United Nations. Earlier in his career, he worked in the Irish government as principal advisor to the energy minister, and was the deputy CEO of the Irish National Energy Agency. He was also the European Union's lead negotiator on low-carbon technology at the UN climate negotiations. 

"We are excited to welcome Morgan to campus," said Roderick Eggert, Viola Vestal Coulter Chair in Mineral Economics and interim director of the Economics & Business Division at Mines. "With his range of accomplishments and experience, he will inject energy and insight into our initiatives on resources policy."
 
Bazilian holds two master's degrees and a PhD in areas related to energy systems and markets, and has been a Fulbright fellow. He holds, or has held, several academic affiliations including at Columbia University, Cambridge University, the Royal Institute of Technology of Sweden, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. He is on the editorial boards of Environmental Research Letters, Energy Strategy Reviews and Energy Research and Social Science. He has published over 100 articles in learned journals. His book, "Analytical Methods for Energy Diversity and Security," is considered a seminal piece in the area of energy finance and security. His work has been published in Foreign Affairs, Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
 
"I am thrilled and honored to be joining what I believe is one of the world's finest energy, environment and natural resources research institutions in the world, and hope to help build the Payne Institute into one of the country's foremost public policy Institutes in these sectors," Bazilian said. 

CONTACT
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines professor Nils TiltonNils Tilton, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado School of Mines, has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to develop a computational fluid dynamics model to improve efficient, low-energy options for wastewater treatment and desalination.

Tilton’s project, "Robust Numerical Modeling for Rational Design of Membrane Filtration Processes," will receive $547,364 over five years beginning in August. 

“Shortages in potable water are creating a large demand for water treatment and desalination. California’s recent drought, for example, is motivating municipalities to invest in seawater desalination plants. Desalination technology is also now used to recycle municipal and industrial wastewater. The problem is that desalination requires a lot of energy, and the generation of that energy by power plants requires a lot of water. In the process, you also make more pollution, which exacerbates climate change and drought,” Tilton said. “Finding new, more energy-efficient ways of producing potable water is key to securing long-term water and energy security.”

Tilton’s work will focus on membrane separation processes, such as reverse osmosis and nanofiltration. Both offer promising low-energy solutions for desalination and wastewater treatment – that is, until the membranes get bogged down.

“You're basically filtering water by forcing it through a membrane that acts like a sieve – water goes through the membrane while salts and other contaminants are blocked,” Tilton said. “The problem is, all that stuff builds up on the membrane and increases the pressures needed to force the water through. With time, the salts also form a hard mineral scale, like the calcium deposits you get on shower walls, that impedes filtration, damages the membrane and increases maintenance costs.”

That retention of solutes, known as concentration polarization, can be tackled by patterning a mesh-like net of physical spaces on the membrane to alter the fluid flow at the surface. The impact of those feed spacers, however, is not well understood.

Tilton and his team will develop a new method for simulating the interactions between polarization, scaling and mixing due to feed spacers. Using the information they gather, they will then design better patterns for the meshes to minimize polarization.

Researchers will also collaborate with a 3-D printing company to look into the possibility of using 3-D printing to produce the meshes, as well as Newmont Mining, which will provide sample mine wastewater for testing. 

Applications of membrane separation processes include the desalination of seawater and the treatment of municipal wastewater for potable reuse, as well as the recycling of the wastewater generated during hydraulic fracturing. 

As part of the project, Tilton is also partnering with the Asian Pacific Development Center in Aurora to develop a new summer youth workshop. Aurora high school students would come to Mines for the workshop, learning computer programming using affordable Raspberry Pi computers. Mines students in the Multicultural Engineering Program would lead the workshop.

Tilton joined Mines in 2014 after serving as a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Maryland, College Park, and University of Aix-Marseille. He holds a PhD, master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University in Montreal.

 

Toxic chemicals from fire-fighting foams have contaminated water supplies in the towns of Fountain, Security and Widefield south of Colorado Springs, affecting at least 65,000 Coloradans

Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado School of Mines received a two-year grant to investigate contamination of the drinking water in the towns of Fountain, Security and Widefield, Colorado.  Residents of these towns were exposed to drinking water contaminated with pollutants originating from aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) used in firefighting and training activities.

By measuring biological markers of exposure and health indicators in a sample of approximately 200 people who consumed contaminated water, this study will provide communities and scientists with an improved understanding of the biopersistence and potential health impacts of AFFF-derived poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).  PFASs are a class of chemicals widely used in industrial and commercial applications since the 1950s.

In July, a nine-month U.S. Air Force study verified that firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base contaminated ground water and soil with PFASs at levels more than 1,000 times an Environmental Protection Agency health advisory limit for similar chemicals. 

The grant is from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a program of the National Institutes of Health. This study is being funded because of the recent discovery of the source of contamination, which has impacted the water supplies of these communities for several years. 

“This research will contribute to our understanding of the factors driving this unique exposure and how it may affect long-term health,” said Dr. John Adgate, chair of ColoradoSPH’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and principal investigator of the study. “We will collect the first systematic data on blood levels of these persistent compounds in this PFAS-impacted community. While exposure to PFASs has been significantly reduced due to work by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the local water utilities, our hope is that by gathering data on blood levels shortly after people’s peak exposure we can provide better answers on related health effects and potential next steps.” 

Currently, little is known about the health effects of human exposure to PFASs in areas with drinking water contaminated by AFFF, and no systematic biomonitoring has been done in these communities.  

“Because we suspect that any health effects are likely related to peak blood levels, it is important to collect the blood data and health effect information as soon as we can,” Dr. Adgate said. 

Dr. Christopher Higgins, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Mines and a co-investigator for the study, will be applying advanced analytical techniques to examine the potential that a much broader suite of PFASs is present in the impacted water supplies and possibly in people’s blood. 

“By using high resolution mass spectrometry to look at both water samples and a subset of human serum samples, we hope to improve our understanding of exactly which compounds bioaccumulate in humans and how long they stick around in the human body,” Higgins said. “We will also explore the links between drinking water exposure, PFAS blood levels and the potentially related health effects.”

Interventions to the water system like carbon filtration and alternative water supplies recommended by state and county health departments began in early 2016 soon after discovery of the contamination. As a result, exposures to these chemicals have been significantly curtailed. One of the research team’s challenges will be to work with the water utilities and health agencies to attempt to sample water from wells representative of what people were drinking before these interventions started. The study team hopes the additional water data will be useful to CDPHE and the water utilities that have been impacted by this contamination.

The study will also include Anne Starling, assistant professor of epidemiology at ColoradoSPH, and Katerina Kechris, associate professor of biostatistics and informatics​ at ColoradoSPH.

CONTACT
Tonya Ewers, Director of Communications and Alumni Relations, Colorado School of Public Health | 303-724-8573 | tonya.ewers@ucdenver.edu
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu

 

Whitney Trainor-GuittonA Colorado School of Mines professor is part of a partnership that has been recognized for developing a computer software package to assess the environmental risk of geologic carbon dioxide storage sites.

The National Risk Assessment Partnership (NRAP) Toolset was named one of the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace in the past year by R&D Magazine. Geophysics Assistant Professor Whitney Trainor-Guitton was part of the team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; other national labs in the partnership were Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley, Pacific Northwest and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The software package comprises 10 science-based computational tools that support industry and regulatory agencies as they design and implement safe and effective geologic carbon storage projects to sequester large volumes of human-made carbon dioxide.

Together, these 10 tools represent the most complete suite of models ever assembled to assess the geological integrity and environmental risk of carbon dioxide storage sites by quantifying potential fluid leakage and ground motion.

Trainor-Guitton was involved in uncertainty quantification for different monitoring techniques for drinking-water aquifers and reservoir seal integrity. “Specifically, I modeled and quantified how reliable several types of direct and indirect methods could be at detecting combined CO2/brine leakage into a heterogeneous, sedimentary aquifer,” she said. This helps determine the best strategies for implementing monitoring protocols for carbon sequestration sites.

Geologic formations found deep underground offer promising repositories for safe and effective storage of large volumes of carbon dioxide. However, unlike engineered reactors in surface operations, geologic systems are inherently variable and often poorly characterized, making it difficult to know with certainty how a system will respond to large-scale injection and storage of carbon dioxide.

To overcome these obstacles, developers and investors need robust, science-based tools to understand the range of potential environmental risk at carbon dioxide storage sites, over time.

Known as “the Oscars of Invention,” the R&D 100 Awards recognize 100 of the brightest and boldest technologies and services of the year across nine categories. Since 1963, the R&D 100 Awards program has identified revolutionary technologies newly introduced to the market. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items and high-energy physics spanning industry, academia and government-sponsored research.

Trainor-Guitton holds a bachelor’s degree in geophysical engineering from Mines and master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. She joined the Department of Geophysics in 2015.

CONTACT
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines hosted its second summit focused on the environmental impacts of mine closure and remediation strategies on Nov. 14.

“A Framework to Manage the Environmental Reality of Orphaned and Abandoned Mine Lands” brought together non-governmental organizations, researchers, industry representatives and other stakeholders for a daylong discussion on the Mines campus.

“The Summit brought together over 150 individuals to share and identify opportunities,” said Robin Bullock, an associate professor in the Engineering, Design and Society Division.

Panel participants and speakers shared ideas on best practices for navigating the complex environmental, political and social aspects of managing orphaned and abandoned mine lands, generating expectations for future stakeholders.

Mines hosted the first summit, “Reasonable Expectations for Mine Closure,” in 2016. The event highlighted the need to continue the conversation and develop collaborative strategies that lead to action.

“The series of Mines’ Summits brings stakeholders together to collaborate and develop ideas on how to effectively resolve abandoned mines issues, understanding potential technical limitations as well as identify opportunities for innovation and reuse,” said Mining Engineering Department Head Priscilla Nelson.

This year’s discussions ranged from the technical aspects of successful mine closure and good and bad examples of mine remediation to partnerships and policy in the sociopolitical arena.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources sponsored the summit, in collaboration with the Department of Mining Engineering, the Engineering, Design and Society Division, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Keystone Policy Center.

Mines plans to host a third summit in 2018 to continue the discussion and generate tangible actions to begin systematic remediation of existing abandoned mines.

See photos event in the Flickr slideshow below.

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
 

A five-year, $4 million National Science Foundation grant will put Colorado School of Mines at the center of efforts to tackle the public health and environmental challenges posed by artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

About 30 percent of gold produced worldwide – for use in jewelry, electronics, currency and more – comes from artisanal and small-scale mining operations, a broad categorization that ranges from subsistence miners with a shovel and gold pan to small outfits equipped with basic machinery. 

The practice, which provides a livelihood for an estimated 100 million people directly and indirectly, also comes at a cost: large-scale deforestation, air and water contamination and chronic human diseases, particularly from the mercury used to process the gold ore. 

“Artisanal and small-scale mining is the No. 1 anthropogenic cause of mercury pollution in the world, but most people don’t pay attention to it,” said Juan Lucena, professor and director of the Mines Humanitarian Engineering Program. “It’s invisible to the minds of most people, because it’s hidden in the mountains and jungles of Latin America.”

Starting in January, a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by Lucena will work hand-in-hand with mining communities and universities in Colombia and Peru to develop not simply improved techniques and technologies but social organizations that make artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) cleaner, safer and more sustainable. 

“Existing efforts to introduce sustainable practices, primarily through mercury-free processing technologies, have not achieved long-term sustainability because they are believed by miners to be inefficient or uneconomical. And many well-intentioned technical experts in this area lack the training to know how to work with and engage ASGM communities,” Lucena said. “This project will break the trend by educating U.S. engineers to co-design, implement and evaluate sustainable and culturally appropriate ASGM technologies and practices with miners and affected communities in Colombia and Peru.” 

The Mines-led project was one of 14 nationwide to receive Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) awards from the NSF, funding collaborative research with international partners in 24 countries. Established in 2005, PIRE leverages and supports international relationships to address critical science and engineering questions and to develop a cadre of U.S. scientists and engineers with a global outlook capable of working across cultures.

Mines researchers will be collaborating with faculty and students at four universities in Colombia and Peru – Facultad de Minas of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Peru and Peru’s University of Technology and Engineering – as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy and University of Colorado closer to home. 

By working closely with affected communities, researchers hope to overcome a major challenge faced by existing efforts to introduce sustainable ASGM practices -- a belief by many miners that the alternative practices are inefficient or not economical.

“The crux of the grant is working with artisanal miners and affected people to design technology and social practices that are more sustainable – you can’t do that if you don’t understand the local context,” said Jessica Smith, associate professor of engineering, design and society and one of four co-principal investigators on the project.

The technologies, practices and social organization of artisanal and small-scale mining can vary greatly site to site and miner to miner, said Nicole Smith, a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor in mining engineering. Smith, a co-principal investigator on the project, has studied ASGM in Africa and South America throughout her career, including two separate State Department-funded projects in Peru to implement cleaner and safer ore-processing technologies

“Even within Peru, there are many people doing all different kinds of things – there's the real small-scale guy and then there’s the larger-scale guy who has lots of equipment. There are women and there are youth playing different roles in the gold supply chain,” Smith said. “What we're trying to do is get a site-specific understanding of these systems – where they’re mining, why they’re mining, questions related to geology, how miners decide where to mine. We’ll use that data to inform the interventions.” 

Small-scale gold miners around the world have been using mercury to process ore for centuries, including here in the U.S. during the days of the Gold Rush, said Elizabeth Holley, assistant professor of mining engineering and a co-principal investigator on the project.

Mercury amalgamates with gold – add it to gold-containing ore and the mercury will bind to the gold, leaving everything else behind. Miners then burn the mercury off, often over an open fire, to obtain the gold.

“The problem is, mercury is very persistent when it enters the environment. It’s reactive. It doesn’t degrade, and it bioaccumulates in the food chain,” Holley said. 

Holley, who specializes in ore deposits and the geochemistry of mine wastes like mercury, will be analyzing the geological and geochemical characteristics of the various sites in Peru and Colombia. Geology plays a major role in how individual deposits are mined, what techniques are used and how damage spreads into the broader environment, she said. 

Researchers will also study environmental monitoring and remediation, applying an approach that relies less on data and modeling and more on local knowledge to address mercury pollution, said Kate Smits, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-principal investigator on the project. 

“Many remediation strategies have been developed to remove or trap mercury in soil and water, but the implementation of such strategies is often limited by cost, material availability, and the knowledge and skill sets of the local communities,” Smits said.  

The grant will support five undergraduate researchers and six graduate students every year, with the goal of graduating at least three PhD candidates over the five-year program.

“We’re really trying to focus on educating engineers about the concepts related to human-centered design,” Nicole Smith said. “What does that mean? It means getting into the field and interacting with the people who will be using these designs.”

Large-scale mining companies are in need of employees who understand the complexities of artisanal and small scale mining, said Jessica Smith, an anthropologist who also teaches courses on corporate social responsibility and participatory fieldwork methods at Mines. In many countries, ASGM and large-scale mining happen in close proximity – often on the same land – leading to potential conflict.

“This is the biggest challenge facing hard-rock mining not just in South America but Africa and other parts of the developing world,” Smith said. “This is an opportunity to help large-scale companies think about how they can most effectively engage that challenge while creating shared social, environmental and economic value with the communities closest to their operations."

CONTACT
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Jennifer WilcoxA Colorado School of Mines associate professor has been prominently featured in several scientific and general-interest publications for her research into removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Jen Wilcox, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, was quoted extensively in the cover story of the latest issue of The Economist, “What they don’t tell you about climate change.”

The article details how simply lowering emissions of greenhouse gases is not enough—taking existing CO2 out of the atmosphere is a crucial element in meeting climate targets. Wilcox explained how capturing CO2 from open air, as opposed to directly from exhaust gases, is the technology with the second-highest theoretical potential for reducing emissions.

Unfortunately, the concentration of CO2 in the air is low—0.4 percent—compared to the 10 percent or more in exhaust from power plants and other industrial processes. The costs are much higher as well, according to a review Wilcox contributed to.

Wilcox was also interviewed for an article about carbon capture and storage in the October issue of Nature. She explains that while negative emissions must be part of the solution to climate change, it should not be a replacement for mitigation of CO2.

“At this point, to achieve these targets, which scientists believe are safe, we will need to do everything and now, i.e., increasing renewable penetration, fuel switching, afforestation and preventing deforestation, increased energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage, and negative emissions strategies,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox made the same points in an interview with Environmental Research Web published Nov. 9.

“Energetically, it is much more difficult to separate carbon dioxide from the air than from flue gas—in fact, it is on the order of 300 times more difficult,” Wilcox said. “However, it will take a portfolio of options to prevent 2°C of warming by 2100, if the indications from climate models are correct.”

Wilcox also advocated for giving consumers more options, such as offering fuel made by reacting carbon dioxide extracted from the air with hydrogen derived from renewable sources. “Some consumers may be willing to pay the additional cost compared with conventional gasoline, and I think this could be an interesting space to explore,” Wilcox said.

CONTACT
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu

Marc Edwards will be the keynote speaker at The Young's Environmental SymposiumColorado School of Mines is hosting a film screening, panel discussion and keynote speaker in a two-day symposium on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with the Hennebach Program in the Humanities and former Mines President John Trefny, is organizing the Young’s Environmental Symposium on October 18-19.

The symposium opens Wednesday, October 18, with a screening of “Noah: Rising from the Ashes in Flint” at 6:30 p.m. in the Green Center’s Metals Hall. The film tells the story of Noah Patton, a young Flint resident, who is working to positively shape the future of his community.  The film will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Dana Romanoff; Pastor Robert McCathern, a local Flint religious leader; Margaret Kato, the executive director of Genesee County Habitat for Humanity in Flint; and Marc Edwards, Thursday’s keynote speaker.

Marc Edwards, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who was a key player in bringing the Flint crisis into focus, presents “Citizen Science and the Flint Water Crisis – Triumph, Tragedy and Misconduct” from 7 to 9 p.m. on October 19 in the Green Center’s Friedhoff Hall. Edwards will discuss case studies of engineering and scientific misconduct that have been perpetrated by government agencies meant to protect the public health.

"The purpose of the symposium is to bring awareness of environmental issues that have important social significance to Mines and the surrounding communities,” said John McCray, professor and head of Mines’ Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

This symposium is sponsored through a gift from The Young Foundation and is named after Herbert Young, a 1939 Mines graduate who majored in mining engineering and established the symposium.

 

CONTACT
Joe DelNero, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3326 | jdelnero@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

Mines Tiny House at the 2017 Celebration of Mines event

It may be tiny, but a 220-square-foot house under construction on the Colorado School of Mines campus is about to find itself in front of a big audience. 

The solar-powered, net-zero Mines Tiny House will be on display at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 Solar Decathlon in Denver Oct. 5-9 and 12-15 as part of the international event’s Sustainability Expo, a consumer-facing exposition showcasing energy solutions and services.

And while Mines is not entered in the decathlon’s signature competition this year, the student-led team is excited to show off what they have accomplished. At the expo, visitors can get a behind-the-scenes look at tiny house construction and the decisions that went into maximizing every square inch of space for livability and energy efficiency. 

“The decathlon is going to bring out a lot of people who are interested in building science and it will be fun to show our progress and our process,” said Katie Schneider, a junior majoring in engineering physics and Mines Tiny House president. 

“We want to get as much as we can done to show off our sponsors and show what we’ve gotten donated,” she said. “A lot of it, we’re just going to have in place—it’s not going to be functioning but it will be a proof of concept.”

Mines students have been working on the tiny house for almost two years, building it from the trailer up after class and on weekends. Once complete next spring, the solar-powered house will be used as a classroom and meeting space on campus as well as an educational and outreach tool in the community.

That community outreach has begun even before the house is finished. A recent event with Xcel Energy brought dozens of elementary and middle school kids to the tiny house on a Saturday morning to learn all about energy. 

“We’re going to see if we can keep this tiny house completely off the grid and educate the tiny house community on how that’s possible,” Schneider said. “We really want to use it as an educational site.”

Another big goal of the tiny house: prepare Mines to compete in the next Solar Decathlon in 2020. Colorado School of Mines has never fielded a team in the international competition. 

For the decathlon, collegiate teams spend almost two years designing and building full-size solar-powered houses to face off in the 10 contests, evaluating market potential, innovation, health and comfort, water usage and more. Unlike many of the other schools that compete, though, Mines does not have an architecture or construction management program. 

“Working with the tiny house has given us a lot of ideas and things that work and don’t work. It’s been important for the experience of the students,” said Tim Ohno, associate professor of physics and Mines Tiny House faculty advisor.

That learning process will continue after the tiny house is complete. A sensor network is being installed to track the home’s temperature and humidity, and decisions were also made in the initial design process to allow for some flexibility moving forward, should students want to try out new materials or technology.

“The biggest deal for our house, because all the power we have is from solar panels, is during the winter we have to be pretty well insulated,” Ohno said. “There’s nine inches on the roof, five inches on the floor. There’s about five inches of insulation in the walls.”

Those solar panels—five in total—will provide about 1.3 kilowatts of electricity, Ohno said. The club’s calculations indicate that in combination with the house’s lithium battery storage, the panels will probably be enough to meet the energy demands of the house, “with the emphasis being on probably,” he said. “That’s the experiment part—we’ll find out.”  

Plans also call for a “living” wall to help improve indoor air quality, an extra-low-flow shower head, a solar-powered window awning and an electrochromic “smart” window donated by ViewGlass.

Donations of both expertise and materials have come from a variety of local and national businesses, including Front Range Lumber, Johns Manville, JLM Energy, Milgard, Hunter Douglas and Xcel Energy.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Schneider said. “We’ve had to problem-solve—which is what we’re good at as engineers.”

After the decathlon, the tiny house will return to its temporary home in the parking lot of the Moly Building in Mines Park. The team is looking forward to finding a more permanent—and visible—location on the main campus once the house is done. 

“It’s going to be a pretty amazing tiny house,” Ohno said. “When we finish, with respect to its energy efficiency, there aren’t going to be many tiny houses that are better.”

If you go: The Solar Decathlon, located at 61st & Pena Station near Denver International Airport, is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 5-8, 1 to 7 p.m. Oct. 9 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 12-15. For more information, go to solardecathlon.gov

CONTACT
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 | erusch@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

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