Environment

Did you know that buildings use about three-quarters of the total electricity generated in the United States? And that during the summer months, buildings cooling systems account for about 50 percent of the electricity peak demand?

 
    Dr. Tabarez-Velasco and his graduate student present the new lab to prospective students.

These were the statistics that Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Paulo Cesar Tabares-Velasco shared as he led a group of prospective students through his new lab during Meet Me at Mines, an event for prospective students from historically underrepresented groups. These high school students were the first to get a look at the new lab that will celebrate its official grand opening in January 2017.

The Building and Thermal Science Lab, located on the fourth floor of Brown Hall, is a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art environmental chamber. It allows researchers to control the environmental conditions in which their experiments will take place. Whether testing the thermal performance of wall assemblies or thermal storage technologies such as phase change materials, the ability to set exact environmental conditions is essential.

“The lab offers a combination of sophisticated control, a tight environment, and accurate sensors,” explained Tabares. “This allows us to mimic indoor environments like an office for testing passive thermal storage and also outdoor environments. We also have one radiant (hydronic) wall that allows us to set its temperature independent of the room temperature, enabling thermal testing of different wall assemblies among other things.”

In this new lab, Tabares’ research team hopes to find ways to increase flexibility to the electric grid. “Buildings hold great potential, combined with thermal storage, to solve some of the great challenges related to energy, smart grid, and global warming,” said Tabares.

Tabares' students also focus on improving heating and cooling equipment, indoor air quality and comfort. The new lab includes advanced control and laboratory-rated sensors that accurately control and measure several variables:

  • Supply and return air flow rates
  • Indoor air temperature
  • Indoor air relative humidity
  • Wall surface temperature
  • Indoor concentration of CO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOC)

Senior and graduate students will also use the lab for teaching purposes, such as senior design projects and Tabares’ Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning class. Students will be able to control the supply air temperature and the relative humidity as well as air flow rate. The lab will be a hands-on source for learning about psychometrics (moist air properties and processes), indoor air quality, commissioning and thermal comfort.

Several industry leaders contributed to the Building and Thermal Science Lab, such as Building Automation Products, Inc. (BAPI) and EBTRON, which supplied the innovative sensors for temperature, humidity, and air flow stations.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

A full room of people watching a powerpoint presentation about mine remediation
Mines held a summit on expectations for the closure of historic and abandoned mines on Nov. 17, 2016.

Colorado School of Mines recently hosted a summit on reasonable expectations for the closure of historic and abandoned mines. The summit was held on November 17, 2016, and brought together non-governmental organizations, members of industry, local community members and other stakeholders from throughout the world to discuss what it takes to have a successful mine closure and generate expectations for future stakeholders.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources sponsored the summit, with organizational support from the Humanitarian Engineering Program, the Department of Mining Engineering at Mines and the Keystone Policy Center.

David Holm, Executive Director of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation addresses the summit attendees.
David Holm, Executive Director of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation addresses the summit attendees.

The summit included panel discussions with stakeholders from multiple fields, mapping expectations for successful closures and creating a framework to guide better life-cycle management of active mines by learning from previous experiences.

“The summit discussions extended across stakeholder groups to include a broad set of concerns about the evaluation and management of the risks of mineral development, lack of consensus concerning reasonable expectations and goals for abandoned mine closure, and the assignment of responsibility for risks and actions,” said Priscilla Nelson, department head of Mines’ Department of Mining Engineering.  “Attendees brought perspectives from well beyond the bounds of Colorado and North America.”

The four panels focused on mine closure expectations with environment and community sustainability concerns in mind. In many cases, historic mines were operated before the current laws and regulations were in place, and stakeholders are now faced with issues that need further refinement in order to have a successful closure. Ultimately, the goal of the summit was to generate tangible actions to begin systematic remediation of existing abandoned mines prevalent in the western United States.

Overall, the summit provided the opportunity to discuss what the future of mine remediation and successful mine closures.

See more photos from the summit here.

Sources:

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

 

 

The presence of highly fluorinated organic chemicals, sometimes referred to as PFCs or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), in groundwater continues to be a pressing issue for communities in Colorado and throughout the country. Faculty at Colorado School of Mines have led the research identifying the problem (Study finds high levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water) and, more recently, developing solutions (Mines tackles treating PFC-contaminated water).

Associate Professor Chris Higgins in his environmental engineering lab.

Now the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) has awarded a three-year $1.5 million grant to Christopher Higgins, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to further investigate how PFASs are released, travel and react to other contaminants.

“The ultimate goal,” explained Higgins, “is to treat these PFAS sites.”

To do this effectively, Higgins and his team have proposed to first develop an understanding of how existing remediation technologies that are used to treat the co-occurring contaminants affect PFASs.

These co-contaminants include chlorinated solvents and fuel hydrocarbons, and are often found at sites where aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) has been used. PFASs have already had an impact on groundwater near military sites where AFFF was used, often mixed with these co-contaminants.

“My team will be conducting batch and column laboratory experiments, using field-collected groundwater and soil samples,” Higgins said. “We want to look closely not only at the compounds that are the focus of EPA Health Advisories, but also at how and under what conditions newly identified polyfluorinated PFASs are converted to the more problematic perfluorinated chemicals.”

Higgins will also investigate the interactions of PFASs with nonaqueous phase liquids, such as gasoline and oil. A fully synergistic remediation effort will require more data to develop technology to meet the sites’ requirements.

The research project, titled “Key Fate and Transport Processes Impacting the Mass Discharge, Attenuation, and Treatment of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Comingled Chlorinated Solvents or Aromatic Hydrocarbons,” is a collaboration between Mines, Oregon State University, CDM Smith and the University of California at Berkeley, with Higgins as the principal investigator.

A related project, also funded by SERDP, is being led by Jens Blotevogel, a research professor at Colorado State University, to treat PFCS with electrolysis-based technology.

Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program is the Department of Defense’s environmental science and technology program. It invests across a broad spectrum of basic and applied research, as well as advanced development, in an effort to solve environmental challenges with innovative environmental technologies that enhance and sustain military readiness.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

Mines students volunteering as part of Hike for Help.

This winter break, 16 Mines students will spend their three-week vacation volunteering in Khumbu Valley, Nepal, constructing a public restroom facility for the local community and aiding in repairing the local high school that was destroyed in an earthquake in 2015. Mines is partnering with Hike for Help, an organization that connects with communities in Nepal to work on projects that will have a high impact on the Nepali community.

“There are no public restrooms in the Khumbu Valley, which is the trail that leads to Everest,” said Rachel Osgood, an assistant teaching professor in Mines’ Liberal Arts and International Studies Division. “The people that live there have pit toilets and no sanitation system, so they don’t drink enough water because they don't have anywhere to go to the bathroom.”

Osgood, who will lead students on this international service learning trip, recalled how the founder of the Hike for Help organization, Lhakpa Sherpa, also the owner of the Sherpa House restaurant in Golden, Colorado, was struck by students’ reactions to the pit toilets on a previous community service trip. “Sherpa got together with other local leaders in the Lukla and Khumbu Valley regions and talked about how beneficial [constructing a public restroom facility] would be for the people of the area, particularly in terms of tourism,” said Osgood. The Nepali community agreed that this would be a valuable addition, giving the project a green light.

A young boy playing with his kendama in Nepal.

When approached to help with this project, Mines reacted without hesitation, and the community service trip filled up quickly, mostly with McBride Honors students who are eager to travel to Nepal and make a difference. “I am most looking forward to returning to the area that I helped support with Hike for Help last winter,” said chemical engineering student Chase Li. Engineering physics student, Peter Consalvi added, “To go over there and build (from scratch) a restroom that is going to greatly benefit the valley, we have a great chance to really help someone.”

But this service trip will have many benefits for Mines students as well. Trinity Wilson, a chemical engineering student, admitted, “This experience [will be] far out of my comfort zone; it will take me further from the things and people I depend on and challenge me mentally and physically to face my fears.”

Since the students are required to cover their own travel expenses, all of the fundraising will be put towards the service project—the materials and labor. “It’s pretty expensive, because the cement has to be transported up the valley and the only way to get there is by walking with some yaks or flying in a really small passenger plane,” explained engineering physics student Matthew Kowalsky.

The eventual goal is to build 40 of these restrooms within the next few years throughout the valley. Osgood added, “We want to make this a sustainable relationship between our community and the community in Nepal, because we have a local connection and it hits close to home.

Check out the video below for more information about Hike for Help:

https://youtu.be/iDriqFNG6EE

To support Hike for Help in its fundraising efforts to obtain supplies to help local citizens of the Khumbu Valley, visit giving.mines.edu/goldmine.

 

Contact:
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088 lpinkus@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

 

Mines students perform a mine rescue training exercise. 
Photo courtesy of Colorado School of Mines Mine Rescue Team.

The Colorado School of Mines Energy, Mining and Construction Industry Safety program has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Education Center at Red Rocks Community College to enhance the effectiveness and broaden the scope of their current training programs.

The partnership will allow the institutions to offer joint certificate training programs for required Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and will open the door to training in other standards as well, such as those of the National Fire Protection Association. The agreement also expands the traditional mining focus of current training programs to other industries such as oil and gas and construction.  
 
“This represents a significant step forward in the evolution of the EMCIS program here at Mines,” said Kirk H. McDaniel, director of business development for the program. “This collaborative partnership with RRCC RMEC enhances both of our programs, and also fits well with other relationships we are developing.—such as with Fire Departments for underground technical rescuer qualifications, and with national labor unions for tunnel training.” 
 
Training programs will include both in-classroom training as well as hands-on experience at facilities such as the Edgar Experimental Mine in Idaho Springs and the West Metro Fire Academy in Lakewood.
 
“Our partnership with Mines’ EMCIS program offers the expansion of our OSHA-authorized Education Center courses to include best-practices instruction,” said Joan W. Smith, dean and executive director of RMEC.  
 
Smith explained that this implementation of “best practices” is only made possible by the experiential learning techniques that the EMCIS program will bring to the joint course offerings.
 
Participants in the joint courses will earn certificates from EMCIS as well as OSHA certification from the Rocky Mountain Education Center.
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

 

Professor Illangasekare (far right) receives the PSIPW Award from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Photo Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Professor Illangasekare (far right) receives the PSIPW Award from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moonPhoto Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Congratulations to Tissa Illangasekare, distinguished chair and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, who received the Groundwater Prize for the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW), one of the most prestigious awards for water research and the highest international honor in the field of groundwater.

Illangasekare received the award on Nov. 2, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, hosted by the U.N. Friends of Water and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Illangasekare was honored for his work to improve the fundamental understanding of fluid flow and chemical transport in porous media through innovative multi-scale experimentation and modeling. His work has led to the reliable prediction of the long-term fate of pollutants in groundwater systems. Most recently, Illangasekare has focused on problems in the development of technologies for secure storage of CO2 in deep geologic formations, which is expected to reduce atmospheric loading of greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming. 

Speaking at the U.N. ceremony, Illangasekare emphasized the importance of groundwater research and an interdisciplinary approach to solutions. “Groundwater is 30.1 percent of the freshwater in the world and is the most extracted natural resource," he said. "The groundwater problems of the coming decades are going to be driven by continually increasing demand, climate change, sea-level rise, chemical and natural pollutants, and issues of energy-water-food nexuses."

Illangasekare concluded his speech with thanks to his early mentors, research sponsors and family. He concluded by saying, "It is with excitement, profound appreciation and humility that I accept this award on behalf of my students, collaborators, research sponsors, and the AMAX endowment at Colorado School of Mines."

Illangasekare is the founding director of the Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes (CESEP) and past recipient of numerous awards, including the Henry Darcy Medal from the European Geosciences Union. His research has led to use-management models for river basins in Colorado, methods to estimate floods in watersheds, dam safety analyses and environmental monitoring.

Established in 2002, PSIPW is a biannual international award that highlights innovation by scientists, inventors and organizations in five water-related fields that contribute to the sustainable availability of potable water and the alleviation of water scarcity throughout the world. The prize organization is headquartered at the Prince Sultan Research Center for Environment, Water and Desert at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines has played a key role in identifying the problem of perfluorochemicals, sometimes called PFCs, in U.S. drinking water and their association with industrial sites, wastewater treatment plants and military fire training areas. Now Mines is partnering with industry experts and the U.S. Air Force to find a solution to treating the problem of fluorochemical contaminants in our water supply.

Civil and environmental engineering professors Timothy Strathmann, Chris Bellona and Chris Higgins have been awarded $898,147 by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center for their project, “Perfluorochemical Treatment by Nanofiltration plus Sequential UV Oxidative/Reductive Treatment of Reject Water.”  The project focuses on conducting a field demonstration of the technology for treating water contaminated with perfluorochemicals.

Mines civil and environmental engineering faculty in the AQWATECH lab.

Left to right: Drs. Chris Bellona, Timothy Strathmann and Chris Higgins

WHAT ARE PERFLUOROCHEMICALS?

Perfluorochemicals are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in many consumer products. Their characteristics of being highly stable, and repelling water and oil led to their use in surface coatings for paper and cardboard packaging, carpets and textiles. They have also been used in fire-fighting foams and in the production of nonstick coatings on cookware. Due to the same chemical properties that make them appealing for the above applications, many of these compounds do not break down and can spread easily if released into the environment. While scientists are still investigating the possible adverse health effects from human exposure to perfluorochemicals, there is concern over the ability of these compounds to concentrate in the body.

Highly persistent fluorochemical contaminants are being detected all across the nation, including south of Colorado Springs. Higgins was part of the groundbreaking study that showed that more than 6 million Americans have poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in their drinking water at concentrations greater than EPA lifetime health advisory limit. 

 

WHAT IS BEING DONE TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS?

Along with transitioning to new firefighting foam formulas, the U.S. Air Force has enlisted the help of Mines civil and environmental engineers to develop innovative approaches to treat drinking water sources contaminated with these chemicals. A high-pressure membrane filtration system will be used in combination with photochemical processed designed to destroy the chemicals. “Both systems have been demonstrated successfully in the lab,” said Strathmann, “but this will be the first time they are combined at this scale and in the field.”

The Air Force is still determining the ideal site for conducting the demonstration test. Due to the benefits of proximity, Mines researchers hope the chosen site will be in Colorado.

Once built, the proposed demonstration filtration system will be run for six months. Bellona, an expert in membrane technologies, is leading the development of the nanofiltration component that will be used to separate the perfluorochemicals from the contaminated water. The UV photochemical process created by Strathmann’s research team will then be used to destroy the chemicals that are retained by the nanofiltration membrane. Validation of the effectiveness of the demonstration technology for treating the complex mixture of perfluorochemicals present in contaminated water will be accomplished using high resolution mass spectrometry methods of analysis pioneered by Higgins and collaborators. Industry collaborators on the project include CDM Smith and Carollo Engineers.

Strathmann explained, “While membrane processes are great at removing these chemicals from water, you are left with this perfluorochemical concentrate mixture that doesn’t pass through the membrane. So we are addressing this problem by treating the concentrate by photochemical generation of radicals that can break down the perfluorochemicals.”

Dr. Chris Bellona and graduate research assistant Hooman Vatankkhah

Dr. Chris Bellona and graduate research assistant Hooman Vatankhah working on the biologically-active filter with granular-activated carbon adsorption polishing device.

THE THREE YEAR PLAN

The entire project will take place over three years, with the initial focus on identifying the ideal site for the demonstration, and evaluating the characteristics of the groundwater and the level of contamination. The second phase will involve designing and testing the system at Mines laboratories. The demonstration system will then be moved to the selected site and operated continuously for six months. Automated control systems are being developed to enable the Mines team to monitor and control the system remotely from campus.

Depending on the system’s cost, energy use and success at reducing the levels of perfluorochemicals, the novel treatment process could be adapted for implementation by small water treatment facilities: a first step in solving the problems of perfluorochemicals in the nation’s drinking water.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

As the population in U.S. urban communities continues to grow exponentially, so does the demand for appropriate housing and office space. Typically, in large urban areas this means building residential and commercial units that are up to 20 stories high, made with concrete or steel, as it has been done in the past century. Yet sometimes, these materials are not ideal in earthquake-prone areas.

 

A new timber structural innovation, known as cross laminated timber (CLT), is being implemented around the world as a sustainable alternative to conventional structural materials. In comparison to building with steel and concrete, timber outperforms in lightness, cost, speed of construction, and environmental impact. However, building tall with cross laminated timber has been limited in earthquake active regions, since a validated design method for tall CLT buildings to resist earthquakes has not yet been developed. Colorado School of Mines plans to change that, with the development of a resilience-based seismic design for tall timber construction.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Shiling Pei aims to develop a seismic design methodology over the next four years for resilient tall wood buildings. “This project, scientifically, will answer a lot of questions we have regarding how to design [these buildings] and how to perfect their performance in earthquakes so that the buildings can be immediately reoccupied after a big earthquake,” said Pei, who is also the principal investigator on a $1.5 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project, A Resilience-based Seismic Design Methodology for Tall Wood Buildings.

With six universities and multiple domestic and international industry partners collaborating on this project, researchers will design, build and validate the performance of a 10-story wood building by conducting a full-scale sub-assembly system testing at the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) experimental facility at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn. This will then be followed by a full-scale test at the NHERI outdoor shake table at the University of California at San Diego—the largest outdoor table in the world.

The model tested on the shake table will be an actual building designed to a resilience performance target, Pei explained, with everything from the finishing drywall to the windows. “This will be the largest building that has been tested on the shake table,” said Pei. But since this is a full-scale model and includes all building components, not just the structural framework, the project can get expensive.

In addition to the support from NSF, the research team still needs to raise approximately $800,000 in order to complete the project. They have already received interest from most industry leaders who see the benefits of their work, which would enable a new sustainable construction practice that is also cost-competitive. If successful, implementing the design method would increase the demand for engineered wood production, providing added value for forest resources and enhancing job growth in construction and forestry sectors.

The researchers expect to have all the designs and donations lined up by the end of 2019 with building anticipated to begin in 2020. “We are excited about the new data this landmark experiment will generate,” said Pei. “It could have an enormous impact on the tall timber building industry, and lead to new building practices using more sustainable materials.”

 

Contact:

Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu
Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
 

[Updated Oct. 31]

2016 AGI Critical Issues Forum

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines teamed up with the American Geosciences Institute to host a series of events on the Mines campus that focused on the High Plains Aquifer. A free film screening of “Written on Water” took place Oct. 26, followed by the AGI Critical Issues Forum, Oct. 27-28.

Mines hosts film screening and forum on High Plains Aquifer

Groundwater is often a "transboundary" resource, shared by many groups of people across town, county, state and international boundaries. Changes in groundwater resources can create unique challenges requiring high levels of cooperation and innovation amongst stakeholder groups, from individuals to representatives at the state and federal government levels.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines hosted two events centered around the High Plains Aquifer, Oct. 26-28.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “The High Plains Aquifer, which spans eight states from South Dakota to Texas, is overlain by about 20 percent of the nation’s irrigated agricultural land, and provides about 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the country.”

Free film screening of “Written on Water”
The series kicked off with a free film screening of “Written on Water” on Oct. 26 at Mines’ Ben H. Parker Student Center. The screening included an introduction by the film's director and producer, Merri Lisa Trigilio, followed by a question and answer session after the movie. 

“Written On Water” focuses on the Ogallala Aquifer and examines the conflicts, politics, economics and groundwater depletion in the High Plains region. Farmers and communities survive on the precious waters of the Aquifer, yet it is being depleted at alarming rates.

View photos from the film screening.

American Geosciences Institute Critical Issues Forum
Work by the Kansas Geological Survey indicates that some parts of the High Plains Aquifer are already effectively exhausted for agricultural purposes; some parts are estimated to have a lifespan of less than 25 years; and other areas remain generally unaffected (Buchanan et al., 2015).

The AGI Critical Issues Forum, “Addressing Changes in Regional Groundwater Resources: Lessons from the High Plains Aquifer," took place Oct. 27-28. The meeting covered multiple aspects of groundwater depletion in the High Plains. Break-out sessions identified lessons learned and best practices from the High Plains Aquifer experience that might apply to other regions facing changes in the Earth system. Keynote speakers included:

  • Sharon B. Megdal, University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center
  • Jason Gurdak, San Francisco State University
  • Merri Lisa Trigilio, Director/Producer, “Written on Water”

View photos from the forum.

About the Payne Institute at Colorado School of Mines
The mission of the Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines is to inform and shape sound public policy related to earth resources, energy and the environment. Its goal is to educate current and future leaders on the market, policy and technological challenges presented by energy, environmental and resource management issues, and provide a forum for national and global policy debate. For more information, visit EarthPolicy.Mines.edu.

About the American Geosciences Institute
AGI was founded in 1948, under a directive of the National Academy of Sciences, as a network of associations representing geoscientists with a diverse array of skills and knowledge of our planet. AGI provides information services to geoscientists, serves as a voice of shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role the geosciences play in society’s use of resources, resilience to natural hazards and the health of the environment. Learn more at AmericanGeoSciences.org.

CONTACT:
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

 
Over two decades after his show aired on PBS and took the ‘90s by storm, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is still a hit among science enthusiasts, especially with the millennials who grew up watching him. On Oct. 5, Nye visited the Colorado School of Mines to speak to a sold-out crowd of students, alumni, faculty, and staff in Lockridge Arena. 
Bill Nye speaks to sold out crowd at Mines' 2016 President's Distinguished Lecture.
Bill Nye speaks to sold out crowd at Mines' 2016 President's Distinguished Lecture. Photo Credit: Agata Bogucka
“It was a childhood dream come true,” said sophomore Victoria Martinez-Vivot. Martinez-Vivot got the opportunity to meet Bill Nye prior to the talk, due to her role as MAC Co-Publicity Chair. 
Mines' President Paul Johnson, Bill Nye and Blaster the Burro in their matching bow-ties, all part of the Bill Nye official bow-tie collection.
Mines' President Paul Johnson, Bill Nye and Blaster the Burro in their matching bow-ties, all part of the Bill Nye official bow-tie collection. Photo Credit: Thomas Cooper

Nye’s talk— part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and kickoff to the 2016 Homecoming festivities— focused on the biggest problems facing our planet and what society, especially young people, can do to make the world a better place.

His catch phrase for the night was: “I want you guys to — dare I say it — change the world.”

Climate change sparked the conversation, but was only one element of Nye’s advocacy for “renewable and reliable energy for all”. In addition to encouraging the crowd to recognize renewable resources as the future of energy, he also dared Mines students to design the better battery and invent hydro-fusion engines for airplanes.

Fueled by his views on climate and the need to recognize the reality of our rapidly changing planet, Nye challenged the crowd of young engineers to solve the world's top three engineering grand challenges: providing clean water, renewable reliable energy and Internet access for all. He also expressed his support for space exploration.
 
“Space exploration brings out the best in us," said Nye. "There are two questions we all ask: Where did we come from? And are we alone in the universe?” Nye asserted that our desire to explore space illustrates the innate yearning within humankind to understand our origins, despite problems planet Earth may be faced with.
 
After a humorous introduction highlighting his father’s fascination with sundials and Nye’s own “MarsDials”, Nye quipped about how times have changed and reflected on his own scientific youth, including the moment he learned that there are in fact, “100 times more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on the Earth.” One of the most memorable moments of the night was Nye’s birthday call to Neil deGrasse Tyson — last year’s Distinguished Lecturer — where he invited the audience to join him in wishing Tyson a “happy orbit around the sun.” The Mines crowd could not have roared any louder.
 
One Mines student gave a heartfelt thank you to Bill Nye during the Q&A at the end of the lecture — “I just want to say that your plate tectonics episode is probably the reason I’m here studying geology right now, so thank you.” 
 
Nye is currently the CEO of The Planetary Society, continuing his legacy of teaching people of all ages the joys and wonders of science. He spent Earth Day 2015 speaking with President Barack Obama about climate change and science education. He also had a short debut on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” but had to drop out after sustaining an injury.
 
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088 lpinkus@mines.edu
 
 

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