Environment

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
 
 
 
Colorado School of Mines Geology PhD student Sebastian Cardona was awarded the Stephen E. Laubach Structural Diagenesis Award during the Geological Society of America’s 2016 Annual Meeting, held September 25-28 in Denver.
Cardona after receiving the Laubach award, with advisor Lesli Wood.

Cardona after receiving the Laubach award, with advisor Lesli Wood.

Cardona represented Mines’ Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the conference with Professor Lesli Wood, his advisor and lead of the Sedimentary Analogs Database and Research Consortium.

The award promotes research combining structural geology and diagenesis, highlighting the growing need to break down disciplinary boundaries between structural geology and sedimentary petrology.
 
Cardona’s research exemplifies this interdisciplinary focus by integrating different data sets and methodologies such as seismic, well log, outcrops and microscopic data. His goal is to use these multidisciplinary data sets to understand the sealing properties of mass transport deposits in deep water settings. 
 
“Sebastian is one of many great student researchers we have in the SAnD research program who capture the integrative nature of science here at Mines,” said Wood. “I am proud of his work and the recognition he has received.”
 
 
 
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
 

Paul Polak address a full house for his humanitarian engineering seminar on solving poverty via design.Sharing his broad world experience as an entrepreneur and activist, Paul Polak presented, “Prescriptions for Helping Poor People Help Themselves: What Engineers Need to Know,” to a large crowd of Colorado School of Mines students and faculty on September 20.

“Instead of trying to bring the newest technology to the poorest regions,” Polak said, “we need to listen and design based on the specific needs and environment of that community.”

Polak’s talk kicked off the Shultz Family Leadership in Humanitarian Engineering Speaker Series, a series aimed at changing the conversation about what engineering is for by showcasing leaders in humanitarian engineering and corporate social responsibility. Author of “Out of Poverty” and “The Business Solution to Poverty,” Polak offers an unconventional approach to solving poverty not through government programs or philanthropic efforts, but by designing for the market of the poorest people on the planet.

“Most design efforts are aimed at the world’s richest 10 percent, while nearly half of the population doesn’t have regular access to food, shelter or clean water,” Polak said, challenging Mines engineers to design affordable technologies that will increase the revenues of the poor.

Even prior to his talk, Polak has influenced design teaching at Mines. Several past humanitarian engineering projects have collaborated with International Development Enterprises (IDE), an innovative nonprofit design organization that Polak founded, located in Denver. Leslie Light, director of EPICS at Mines and a former project manager for IDE, has brought similar human-centered design principals to EPICS, Mines' first-year design course, such as the landmine detection project in fall 2015, and wheelchair redesigns in spring 2015.

SHULTZ HUMANITARIAN SCHOLARS

The five humanitarian engineering student scholars link arms for a photo.

2016-17 Humanitarian Engineering  Shultz Student Scholars: Michelle Pedrazas, Rosalie O'Brien, Melissa Breathwaite, Micaela Pedrazas, and Stephanie Martella

In addition to the lecture series, the Shultz Family fund also sponsors undergraduate students each year as Shultz scholars. The current five scholars are Melissa Breathwaite, Stephanie Martella, Michelle Pedrazas, Micaela Pedrazas and Rosalie O’Brien. Juan Lucena, director of humanitarian engineering, introduced them as “outstanding students who have demonstrated their commitment to connecting their engineering majors to humanitarian engineering in creative ways, all while maintaining excellent academic standing."

For example, inspired by Polak, Stephanie Martella, a chemical and biochemical engineering senior, is collaborating with John Persichetti, teaching associate professor, on designing chemical processes to produce a nutritious beverage for the poorest markets in the world.

“I got involved with Humanitarian Engineering, because I’m passionate about building relationships through engineering and communication,” Martella said. “I want to apply the engineering skills I’ve learned at Mines to solve problems for humankind.”

According to Lucena, as part of their scholarship, the scholars are also committed to mentoring and learning from low-income, first-generation students at Red Rocks Community College who are considering transferring into engineering at Mines.

 

SHULTZ FACULTY FELLOWS

Two professors sit outside as they begin their time as Humanitarian Engineering Faculty Fellows.

The new Humanitarian Engineering Shultz Faculty Fellows: Linda Battalora and Kathleen Smits

A third program funded by the Shultz Family Fund is the Humanitarian Engineering Faculty Fellows. Lucena announced this year’s new faculty fellows as Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Kathleen Smits, and Petroleum Engineering Teaching Professor Linda Battalora.

In spring 2017, Smits and Battalora will offer two courses of interest to students with minors in humanitarian engineering as well as students in their own departments. Smits is adding a humanitarian engineering focus to CEEN 475: Site Remediation Engineering, which will culminate with a feasibility study on an actual environmental site in a low-income country as the students’ final project.

Battalora is developing a pilot course, PEGN 498A: Environmental Law and Sustainability, which will focus on societal impacts and ethics in the discussion of fundamental environmental regulations, policies and case studies.

Humanitarian engineering at Mines continues to grow, with increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility as well as designing for the world’s greatest problems.

 

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

 

 

College of Earth Resource Sciences Dean Ramona Graves recently participated in a panel at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association's 28th Annual Rocky Mountain Energy Summit.

The Academic Technical Roundtable: Partnerships, innovative technologies, and studies, focused on how collaborative partnerships between academia and industry can facilitate research goals. By sharing datasets and software applications with university researchers, companies can achieve the results they are looking for more efficiently and universities can better prepare students by providing them practical experience.

In addition to Graves, the panel consisted of Doug Arent, NREL; Bryan Willson, CSU and Mike Ming, GE Global Research Oil & Gas Technology Center. 
 
To watch a video of the entire panel, please contact cerse@mines.edu with your name and affilitation to Mines or its industry partners. 
 
Contact: 
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
 

In a state with an energy economy as purple as its politics, it can be hard to decide where to stand.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines teamed up with Inside Energy to host Spark! Unpacking the Politics of Energy in Colorado on Sept. 8 at Mines' Ben H. Parker Student Center.

The Payne Institute and Inside Energy explored everything Colorado’s energy portfolio stands to lose, gain or change in the 2016 election. Journalists from Inside Energy pressed a panel of experts on critical energy issues to help the public make their own decisions in November.

The panel included Ian Lange, PhD, Mineral and Energy Economics Program Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines; Tracee Bentley, Executive Director, Colorado Petroleum Council; Meghan Nutting, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Sunnova; and Lee Boughey, Senior Manager, Communications and Public Affairs, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

“This panel coversed a wide variety of the Colorado energy landscape,” says Dr. Lange. “It was exciting to hear the views of my fellow panelists and share my thoughts on how Colorado could be impacted by the policies on the ballot this fall.”

Read a recap and view photos from the event.

Visit EarthPolicy.Mines.edu for more information.

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 Inside Energy
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative among public media with roots in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. It is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its mission, in collaboration with its partner stations, is to create a more informed public on energy issues. Inside Energy seeks to make energy issues a household topic and to inspire community conversations on the topic of energy. Learn more at InsideEnergy.org.

Contact:
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

Water-Energy Education for the Next Generation, a Colorado School of Mines Research Experience for Teachers sponsored by the National Science Foundation, kicked off its first summer training with nine teachers from Colorado public schools. The six-week summer program focused on impacting K-12 STEM curricula by infusing standards-based, active-learning lessons with current research in the water-energy nexus.

                                 

Left to Right: Stephanie Spiris, Melissa McVey, Professor Timothy Strathmann, Renee Adams-Lee, Associate Professor Chris Higgins, Jill-Maria Kuzava, Assistant Professor Chris Bellona, Patricia Brandenburger, Professor Terri Hogue, WE²ST Education & Outreach Specialist Amy Martin, Shannon Garvin, Associate Professor Josh Sharp, Research Assistant Professor Andrea Blaine, Research Associate Cassandra Glenn, Liz Hudd, Julie McLean, Professor Tzahi Cath, and Amy Dehne

Participants shared what they learned and how they would apply it in their classrooms in culminating presentations July 22. Melissa McVey, a sixth-grade science teacher at Bell Middle School in Golden, credited the faculty and graduate students she worked with for new ideas on how to incorporate lessons on biomagnification and contaminants. She plans to have her students study how plants can improve water quality, and ultimately design and create their own mini-wetland.

                                       
Melissa McVey shares insights gathered during her summer research experience at Mines.

Patricia Brandenburger, an eighth-grade STEM teacher at Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, was similarly enthusiastic about the program, saying, “I learned a lot about hydrology, geology and geochemistry, which has made me rethink the way I want to teach our energy transformation unit.”

WE²NG is an outreach component of the ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE²ST, led by Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Terri Hogue and Research Assistant Professor Andrea Blaine. The program included technical, professional and pedagogical training, as well as weekly field trips to connect teachers with industry contacts. WE²NG will continue collaborative relationships with the teacher participants throughout the academic year.

Blaine hopes to see the program evolve and include even more local teachers next summer. “This first cohort of teachers has set the bar high,” said Blaine.  She also expressed her hope that the collaboration between K-12 teachers, Mines faculty and industry leaders will change the way STEM education is delivered. Blaine added, “I believe that a systemic, sustained method of bringing real and exciting science problems into the classroom could revolutionize the way the next generation of scientists addresses critical issues.”

 

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

GOLDEN, CO, June 8, 2016 —Applied Mathematics and Statistics Assistant Professor Stephen Pankavich has received a three-year research grant from the National Science Foundation for $233,775 to develop new analytical and computational methods of solving mathematical problems in the kinetic theory of plasma dynamics.

GOLDEN, Colo., May 9, 2016 – The Mines chapter of the American Association of Drilling Engineers (AADE) recently brought best-selling author Alex Epstein to campus. On April 26, 2016, as the 2nd annual AADE Keynote Speaker, Epstein delivered a talk based on his New York Times Best-Selling book: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. The chairs were filled with eager students and faculty from Mines’ petroleum engineering department, as well as local members of AADE and industry professionals.

Epstein’s talk opened new doors in the fossil fuel debate, bravely tackling the issue with what he calls a “humanist” approach, which largely combats the typical “environmentalist” approach of demonizing “Big Oil”. Epstein argues that people must realize that fossils fuels have and continue to be one of the most reliable and cost-effective sources of energy in the world, and utilizing them allows the developing world to thrive. As a humanist, he explains, he realizes the positive impact that fossil fuels have had on technology, medicine, and ultimately human life. “Alex Epstein is a rare voice challenging the putative tide of anti-hydrocarbon sentiment,” says Taylor Carlson, President of the Mines chapter of AADE. “We wanted to bring him in to encourage honest intellectual evaluation of a hotly debated topic, especially because our students are tied to the energy sector and work so hard to be great engineers, but often lack a true understanding of the moral/ethical foundations of the profession.”

Having a vested interest in the industry, the audience at Mines was exceptionally engaged by Epstein’s unique approach. Closing with, “We need to change the bias we have in our thinking that changing the planet is bad,” Epstein left the audience in a pensive and engaged state, thinking about the future. They were also left with many questions, which were fielded by a distinguished panel of experts. The panel consisted of industry professionals Todd Poulson (Integrated Petroleum Systems Inc.) and Rick Davis (AADE Board of Directors), Jeffco Energy Action Project’s Joni Inman, and Mines professors William Fleckenstein (PE) and Christian Shorey (GE).

 

See photos from the event in the slideshow below.

 

 

 

Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Information Specialist, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

 

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