Students

Colorado School of Mines is a uniquely focused public research university dedicated to preparing exceptional students to solve today's most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

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Eleven members of the Mines Band, along with Teaching Professor & Music Program Director Bob Klimek, Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association Board President Ray Priestley ’79 and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professor Cathy Skokan, spent Spring Break (March 9-13) in Jamaica.

While in Mona, the group visited with the environmental science and engineering departments at the University of the West Indies to hear about their senior design projects and see their preparation for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers robot competition. In Kingston, they teamed up with the Alpha Boys’ School to perform in a five-hour recording session in the Tuff Gong Studio that was founded by Bob Marley in 1965.

Engineering physics student Nick Smith said his favorite part of the trip was recording at the studio, where Mines students had to learn, arrange and record a song in real time.

“We met the students the day before recording, and did not even start rehearsing a song until the morning of the recording session,” Smith said. “Once I figured out the chords, I ended up arranging many of the instrumental parts of the music, and guiding the players through the song as we recorded it.”

Smith plays many instruments with the Mines music department—bassoon in concert band, tenor saxophone in marching band, cello in the orchestra and bass in the jazz band. He wanted to make sure that even though he was not majoring in music, he still had a connection to the arts.

“The greatest way that music makes me a better engineer is that it gives me some sort of connection to humanity, rather than just being a number-crunching, science-doing machine,” Smith said. “I am currently taking an ethnomusicology course, where we study the music of different cultures and how the music is intertwined with their cultural history. Everything in music can teach you about the culture it came from, and this allows me to have a sense of humanity in my engineering.”

As one of the organizers of the trip, Skokan also juggles multiple instruments, playing bassoon in the band, violin in the orchestra and erhu in the Chinese Band. She is not only active in band, but also in the music program, where she organizes small ensembles. Skokan picked Jamaica given that it has a musical as well as technical component.

“Our music students at Mines are very well rounded and are able to use both their creative and analytic parts of their brains,” Skokan said. “We try to expose students to a culture different than in the U.S., but one that they might encounter in their professional careers. Because they have traveled and worked with people from other cultures, they will be more able to adjust when needed.”

In mid-March, the Music program received approval for a new Music Technology minor and will see its first graduates this May. Next Spring Break, the marching band plans to travel to Dublin to perform in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines has once again won the Materials Bowl, held by The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society at its annual meeting and exhibition March 15 to 19 in Orlando.

The Mines chapter of the Material Advantage Student Program defeated Georgia Institute of Technology in the final.

Four chapter members represented Mines in the "Jeopardy"-style knowledge and trivia competition: Blake Whitley, Emily Mitchell, Connor Campbell and Andrea Bollinger.

TMS has held the Materials Bowl at its annual meeting since 2007; the Mines chapter has now won five of those nine competitions, also coming out on top in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. No other school has won twice.

Mines students also took home third place out of 25 entries in the TMS Bladesmithing Competition, with their submission of a kukri blade -- a Nepalese knife similar to a machete.

The team members for the bladesmithing competition were team captain Allison Loecke, Connor Campbell, Ryan Peck, Grant Bishop, Hunter Sceats and Kyle Heser.

TMS is a professional organization composed of scientists, engineers, and students in the materials field.

 

Contact:

Mark Ramirez, Communication Specialist, College of Applied Science and Engineering | 303-383-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

In the sixth annual and largest NASA Robotic Mining Competition, a team of 14 Mines students will be competing against 53 teams from all over the nation to design and build a mining rover.

The senior design team, Blasterbotica, is taking apart last year’s rover and building new components to build a smaller rover for the competition May 18-22 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The rover will have to traverse a simulated Martian terrain, excavate regolith and gravel and deposit them into a collector bin within 10 minutes. The winning team will receive the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence trophy, KSC launch invitations, team certificates for each member and a $5,000 team scholarship.

It’s unusual for teams to build a new rover instead of improving the previous team's rover, but Blasterbotica thinks this will give them an advantage.

“Ours will have a regolith delivery system made up of a bucket ladder and dumping system,” said David Long, mechanical engineering student. “We have created a unique method to lower the excavator, allowing it to go from perpendicular to vertical to almost horizontal. We can lower it in as deep as we want. This will give us a lot more mobility in terms of how we want to excavate.”

One of the challenges the team faces is staying within the weight and size limitations of the contest. The students received a donation from Lockheed Martin to fund their lightweight materials, such as aluminum and steel for the frame and polycarbonate for dust shielding and electronic boxes.

“It has to be durable because we want future teams to be able to use it,” said mechanical engineering student Nichole Cusack. “We will be using chains similar to ones you might see on a bucket ladder. This allows us to get better traction and turn easier so the treads don’t sink in.” 


Last year, the team lost functionality in the rover during the competition because they used a faulty interface. To prevent that from happening again, the team will be using LINUX to allow for flexibility in driving the rover.

“We can’t sense the walls in the arena this year so we have to use inertial measurement units and camera vision to determine location,” said Long. “Power monitoring the rover is a big deal.”

The team is working quickly to have a build done by early April in order to have a month of testing. Since October, the team has delivered STEM presentations using previous rovers to area schools, such as Bell Middle School, Powderhorn Elementary School, Foothills Elementary School, Coal Creek Canyon Elementary School and Mitchell Elementary School.

Blasterbotica is comprised of students in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. The team’s faculty advisors include mechanical engineering professors Christopher Dreyer and Ozkan Celik. Their client is Angel Abbud Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at Mines.

Visit blasterbotica.mines.edu to read more about the team. Keep up with the team’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

The Senior Design Program is part of the College of Engineering & Computational Sciences, and is a creative multidisciplinary design experience emerging from combined efforts in civil, electrical, mechanical, and environmental specialties in engineering.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This quote is on the wall in the office of Megan Harris, who acts as an academic advising coordinator in the Center for Academic Services and Advising (CASA). It is just one of the tips she offers Mines students who come to her with desires or requirements to raise their grade point averages.

Last year, Harris started the Bounce Back Program—an experience that gives students a concentrated academic coaching experience, providing structure, resources, accountability and support to help them achieve their goals. In addition to academic skills, the program focuses on resiliency and having the ability to bounce back from adversity.

For the past year, Harris has watched students who completed a semester of the program improve their GPA.

“We have seen whole grade changes, where students went from a ‘C’ average to a ‘B’ average,” Harris said. “As the program continues to grow, we hope this pattern of success continues.”

Harris said 60 students signed up this semester, an increase of 40 students from the semester before. She attributes the growth to expanding the program from including first year students to sophomores and juniors, and to the positive reaction from students who have successfully completed the program.

Electrical engineering student Eugene Duran went through the program last fall and was eager to share his experience with students currently in the program. Duran serves as one of Bounce Back’s peer coaches, helping facilitate weekly meetings where students learn academic skills such as time management, stress management, techniques to improve memory and test taking strategies.

Duran knows firsthand that it can be difficult to come back to school after a tough semester.

“It was through this program that I was able to earn the best grades I've ever had at Mines,” said Duran. “I had been a deficient student for a time leading up to the point where I was on academic suspension. When I came back to Mines, I attended Bounce Back because it seemed like I could learn from the program and be part of an environment where I could share my experiences with students who had faced similar academic hardship.”

Peer coaches help students like Jim Feng, a petroleum engineering student, who is participating in the program this semester because he hopes to boost his GPA by a full point. In the last month, he has already seen significant changes in his study habits and has learned how to better organize his academic responsibilities.

“It's been so rewarding to have a group of students and coaches keeping me accountable,” Feng said. “The most important thing I've learned from Bounce Back is that I am not alone and that facing my fears is the first step to success.”

Bounce Back acts as a support system for students’ goals, but the success of the program comes from students’ willingness to improve.

“If the person is committed to making a positive change for themselves, this is the place to do it,” said Harris.

Learn more about the Bounce Back Program.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Eleven students are part of a humanitarian engineering course that is designing plans to relocate a village displaced by mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. The course “Projects for People,” taught by corporate social responsibility and Human Centered Design professor Benjamin Teschner, is geared toward students interested in the social challenges associated with the extractive industries and how engineering helps address these problems.

During the first class, Teschner gave each student $20 to design a prototype that would act as a tool to explain to someone living in the village how their lives would change after relocating.

“Commonly, students think of prototypes only as something they build to test their idea or to help themselves as engineers refine a design. What this assignment does is force them to think about how to design a prototype that will show someone else how their idea works so they can engage non-engineers in their design process,” Teschner said. “Students will immediately lay their assumptions about the problem out on the table for everyone to see—assumptions that they didn’t even know they were making.”

Aina Abiina is one of two graduate students in the class. The course is not required for Abiina’s Liberal Arts and International Studies degree, however she chose to enroll because she wanted to learn about the interaction between multi-national companies and people that are affected by these companies’ activities.

“In order to minimize a negative impact on the environment of those people and to optimize the production of the mine, a proper assessment is needed,” said Abiina. “Designing solutions to this complex engineering and social challenge will help students gain valuable skills in human-centered design methods, research techniques, brainstorming tools and approaches.”

Over the next few months, teams in two groups will have three phase gate reviews that will explore problem definition, design exploration and design analysis. The unique thing about this course is that the grades and passage of the phase gates are not linked. Grades are determined instead by how the team works within these phase gates.

“I hope students are able to develop empathy for people who use the things they design and that they recognize by bringing these people into the design process, they can create better, more sustainable engineering outcomes,” Teschner said.

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering student Karyn Burry hopes to end the course with better design flow skills.

“I am a super organized person and that usually is really helpful in a group, but this class is pushing me out of the organizer position into a position where I am forced to think outside the box in attempt to find a solution to this relocation project,” Burry said.

To better understand the village and relocation process, students are working with Thabani Mlilo, manager of sustainability for the America region at AngloGold Ashanti, who is acting as the ‘client’ on the project. Mlilo’s goal is to catalyze a paradigm shift early enough in an engineer’s education so that it is “part of their DNA” and a natural part of how they approach problems or solutions wherever there is a sustainability aspect to their work.

“In the sustainability field, one of the biggest challenges we have is shifting the paradigm of professionals in technical and scientific disciplines to the changing landscape of the business-society interface,” Mlilo said. “My impression of Mines students is that they don’t shy away from a challenge and are not afraid of treading unknown waters.”

For questions about the course, please contact Benjamin Teschner at bteschne@mines.edu.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Sabré Cook, a sophomore mechanical engineering student at Colorado School of Mines, is the only female with a professional kart racer license and is one of four finalists (out of 15,000) who have been named to the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy and MAXSpeed Group Driver Advancement Program.

“As a driver, my engineering studies give me an advantage because I can relate things better to my team about how my car is functioning,” she said.

Cook took a year off school last year to focus on kart racing. She traveled to several countries, and was never in one place for more than two weeks at a time. Despite experiencing some of the most amazing things in her life, she said she missed Mines.

“At one point, during the summer, I went to the library and checked out an AP Calculus book. On the plane I would work through calculus problems just because I missed math."

Balancing her schoolwork with racing is difficult, but she is happy to be back at Mines. Most days of the week, she can be found at the gym where she works on strengthening her core and balance to increase her reaction time. After class or on the weekends, she trains in a racing simulator that allows her to drive life-like tracks.

She will be test-driving cars at the USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Jan. 28 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“This will be my first time on an oval track. I’m excited for that. This is one step closer to racing the Indy 500,” she said.

Cook has been trying to move from kart to car racing since she was 16 years old. But to race cars, she needs more sponsors or more money.

“If you don’t have enough money, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t really move up.”

Cook grew up in Grand Junction in a racing family. Her father, Stacey Cook, professionally raced motocross and supercross, but didn’t want his daughter exposed to the physical risks that came with that type of racing. Karting and cars were the compromise.

At age 8, she was go-kart racing against her cousins and spun out. After that incident, she drove slow for a while, receiving the family nickname, “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“One day, I was tired of getting beat by all the boys and some little boys teasing me. I went to my dad and asked for a faster kart so that I could win. After my dad gave in and I raced in a new kart, I won by 10 seconds.”

She started competitively racing at 10 years old, two years later than most of her fellow racers. Since then, she has become a six-time Colorado State Champion, a 2012 Superkarts USA S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto champion, won two TAG USA World Championships and received a SKUSA Mountain Region title.

Last year, Cook learned about the less-glamorous aspects of racing as luck was not on her side. During a race over the summer, a driver ran over the side of her car and she was left with a concussion and destroyed kart, unable to race for a few days. In the fall, she participated as the first female in history in the FIA KZ World Cup kart championship in Sarno, Italy. She made it around the first lap before her motor blew up, and wasn’t able to finish.

On the horizon, Cook is looking forward to racing in the 2015 FIA European Championship Series in the spring. She is hoping to qualify for the World Cup in September.

After Mines, Cook would like to pursue graduate school as a F1 engineer at Oxford Brookes University in England. She is also interested in applying for an internship on a Formula 1 Team.

 

 

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines Mechanical Engineering professor Xiaoli Zhang and graduate student Songpo Li have developed a gaze-contingent-controlled robotic laparoscope system that can help surgeons better perform laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopy is an operation performed in the abdomen or pelvis through small incisions with a camera. Laparoscopic instruments (typically 0.5-1 centimeters in diameter) are inserted through small incisions and then operated inside a patient’s body together with a laparoscope that allows the surgeon to see the surgical field on a monitor. Unlike open surgery, laparoscopic surgeries have reduced scarring, lessened blood loss, shorter recovery times and decreased post-operative pain. But due to limitations of holding and positioning the laparoscope, surgeons struggle with physiologic tremors, fatigue and the fulcrum effect.

Zhang and Li’s attention-aware robotic laparoscope aims to eliminate some of these physical and mental burdens.

“The robot arm holds the camera so the surgeon doesn’t have to,” Zhang said, noting that the camera is controlled effortlessly. “Wherever you look, the camera will autonomously follow your viewing attention. It frees the surgeon from laparoscope intervention so the surgeon can focus on instrument manipulation only.”

Their system tracks the surgeon’s viewing attention by analyzing gaze data. When the surgeon’s eyes stop on a new fixation area, the robot adjusts the laparoscope to show a different field of view that focuses on the new area of interest.

To validate the effectiveness of this procedure, the team tested six participants on visualization tasks. Participants reported “they could naturally interact with the field of view without feeling the existence of the robotic laparoscope.”

Zhang and Li anticipate that their technologies could have more than just healthcare applications, such as being used for the disabled and the elderly, who may have difficulty with upper-limb movements.

“Using this system, the surgeon can perform the operation solo, which has great practicability in situations like the battlefield and others with limited human resources,” Li said.

In mid September, Li received the Colorado Innovation S.T.A.R.S. challenge award for “Best Technical Achievement” at the college level during the JeffCo Innovation Faire. Zhang and Li are working with clinical researchers and industry partners to commercialize their attention-aware robotic laparoscope.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines geophysical engineering student Bradley Wilson does more than study earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. As an avid photographer, he enjoys finding ways to apply scientific concepts to his images.

Last fall, Wilson received the Blackwell Award for Excellence in Creative Expression. He used four of his photos for a “choose your own adventure” project, where he was given the freedom to produce an artistic piece connected to water.

“The photos I've selected for the piece all represent an aspect of water, although many of them in non-traditional ways,” Wilson said. “For example, the flow of the dancer mirroring the flow of water and the carving of a canyon really represent the power of water more than anything else. “

Inspiration for Wilson’s project stemmed from the McBride Honors Program’s elective, “Water in the West,” where he examined water issues in the western U.S. from several angles.  

“One of the things that stuck out to me during the class was how pervasive the water metaphor was in many peoples’ lives. As a universal symbol, the concept of water extended far beyond its physical definition.”

Water also carries a personal context, which inspired the second portion of Wilson’s piece—poems. A series of four haikus carry the reader through a father-son relationship, as the water metaphor links the photos together.

Wilson plans to pursue his Ph.D. in geosciences at the University of Arkansas, working on earthquake risk analysis in the Middle East, focused specifically on understanding hazard mitigation in differing cultural and religious contexts.

Recipients of the Blackwell Award for Excellence in Creative Expression are chosen semi-annually by faculty in the Liberal Arts and International Studies department.  Valued themes for this award include the human condition; humanity’s relationship with nature, technology, and/or science; the essence or spirit of a given culture; globalization.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

The Mines campus generously gave food and monetary donations during the fall 2014 Castle of Cans food drive, providing enough to give boxes to 45 families. Eight additional boxes of food were also donated to the Golden food bank.

Petroleum engineering undergraduate Katey Bowlby serves as the Order of Omega Honors Society social chair and spearheaded this year’s Castle of Cans event.

“It was rewarding to be able to work on this event and see the amount of food we were able to give to families in need. I was absolutely thrilled with the turnout,” Bowlby said.

During the drive, one Mines staff member gave $100 cash in an effort to give back for receiving the food assistance himself during his first few years of employment with the university.

Click the slideshow to view some of the can sculptures created by campus groups. (Photos courtesy of Katey Bowlby and Fran Aquilar.)

 

Contact:
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

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