Partner News

Software to assess CO2 storage risk wins award

Colorado School of Mines - Mon, 11/27/2017 - 10:29

A 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.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

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Mines convenes 2nd summit on abandoned mine lands

Colorado School of Mines - Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:51

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 representative and other stakeholders for a daylong discussion on the Mines campus.

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.

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 and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Mines hopes 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 | Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |  
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Microbial hot spring structures offer clues into geological past

Colorado School of Mines - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 15:40

Orange, tree-like cone structures up to two centimeters tall found in a California hot spring were built by a rich and diverse community of microbes, newly published research shows.

These microbes, living in a California hot spring aptly named “Cone Pool” by researchers in the Long Valley Caldera, just east of Mammoth Mountain in California, built sturdy Christmas tree-like structures using calcium carbonate—the same mineral used by corals to form their skeletons.

John Spear, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, was part of the international team of researchers working on the project. Their findings were published Nov. 21 in the journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes.

“It is fascinating to observe these intricate structures under the microscope, and see that they bear strikingly similarity to those preserved in ancient rocks, built millions of years ago by ancient ancestors to the microbes in Cone Pool,” said James Bradley, co-lead author and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Southern California. “This means that we have found a new modern analogue for those ancient structures that might provide clues into the formation and preservation of ancient counterparts.”

The structures, resembling microbial filaments when viewed under an electron microscope, are made up of long threads, intertwined around tiny grains of calcium carbonate. The study suggests that they are the result of the activity of millions of different microbes, each with a metabolism that contributes to the cone-building process.

Characterization of the microbes’ DNA indicates that the community is highly diverse and capable of metabolisms including photosynthesis, which might encourage the formation of these never-before-seen structures.

“This type of insight would be impossible to achieve without the collaborative, multidisciplinary nature of the research,” said Bradley Stevenson, a microbiologist at the University of Oklahoma.

The international team of researchers included members from the University of Southern California; California State University, Fullerton; Colorado School of Mines; UES Inc. of Dayton, Ohio; University of Oklahoma; and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. They were brought together by the International GeoBiology Course at USC in 2015.

The annual course brings together scientists from a range of disciplines and levels of experience with the overarching aim to explore the co-evolution of the Earth and life on Earth. All results presented in the paper were generated from fieldwork and experiments conducted as part of the course, and lead authors Bradley, Leslie Daile and Chris Trivedi were students in the 2015 course.

“The best kinds of research can be done at the intersection of different kinds of science—here geology, geochemistry and microbiology come together to better reveal what is known about life and Earth’s history,” said Spear, the corresponding author who co-directed the course.

The project was funded by the Agouron Institute, the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) and the Zink Sunnyside Family Fund.

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

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Mines research into colloidal chains headed to space

Colorado School of Mines - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:54

Research by Colorado School of Mines faculty on the behavior of chains of colloidal molecules is headed to the International Space Station on a SpaceX flight scheduled for Dec. 4.

Professor David Marr and Associate Professor Ning Wu, both of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, have been researching colloidal molecules for medical and other applications for several years. Now, they have the opportunity to learn how chains of these beads just several microns wide behave in microgravity.

“We’re trying to understand the basic dynamics of these chains,” Marr said. On Earth, “they’re kind of heavy—they sink very quickly, which makes them very hard to study. In microgravity, they’re freer to do what they do and we can observe that.”

Mines’ experiment is one of three—all colloidal in nature—that will be delivered to the International Space Station by SpaceX CRS-13. The samples—which fit into three small glass tubes—will likely sit for a couple of months. After some simulations and plenty of video communication with scientists, the astronauts on board will conduct the experiments and observe them using microscopes already on the ISS.

After establishing a baseline for their behavior, Marr and Wu hope to conduct experiments with electric and magnetic fields in microgravity as well, although equipment for that could take years to bring up.

The upcoming delivery has been years in the making, with the Mines team proposing the experiments back in 2014. Marr plans to fly down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to witness the launch. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Previously, Marr and a team of researchers—Associate Professor Keith Neeves, postdoctoral fellow Onur Tasci and University of Colorado-Denver Associate Professor Paco Herson—developed a method for creating “microbots” that could be used to treat blood clots in humans. The tiny particles would be injected into the bloodstream and assembled into a wheel using a magnetic field. That same magnetic field directs the wheel to the site of the clot and spins to break it up.

Marr, Wu, Neeves, Tasci and PhD candidate Tao Yang are exploring using a similar technique to create “microlassos” that can pick up and transport medication and other substances throughout the body.

Wu is also conducting research into assembling nanoparticles using electric, as opposed to magnetic, fields.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

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Stefanie Tompkins named VP for research and tech transfer

Colorado School of Mines - Tue, 11/21/2017 - 10:01

The acting deputy director of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will join Colorado School of Mines early next year as the university’s vice president for research and technology transfer.

Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, who has spent the last decade in leadership and program management roles at DARPA, will oversee all research activity at Mines, serving as the public face of the university’s diverse research portfolio as it pushes to expand the reach and impact of the projects it conducts for industry and government. She will begin her new role in February 2018.

“Mines has always been a go-to place for solutions and knowledge, especially where our deep expertise in earth, energy and environment was needed,” said Mines President Paul C. Johnson. “In the future, we want our ideas, inventions and graduates to have even greater impact and value to people around the globe. Dr. Tompkins, with her unique background as a senior leader in what is arguably one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial federal R&D agencies, knows what is needed to get there. The Mines community is enthusiastic that Stefanie will be our new vice president for research and technology transfer at this pivotal time.” 

“The world seems to be growing more complex every day, and we need new tools for the challenges posed by that complexity,” Tompkins said. “Many of those tools will come from universities like Mines—filled with people who like to really roll up their sleeves and stitch things together, from basic discovery to technology transition. I’m especially excited about Mines’ history of working with complex, multidisciplinary problems and getting new research discoveries into use in the broader world.” 

A geologist by training, Tompkins has spent much of her professional career developing new technology capabilities. Before becoming DARPA’s acting deputy director in January 2017, Tompkins led the agency’s most exploratory unit, the Defense Sciences Office, accelerating research into new technologies for national security in fields as diverse as atomic physics, biochemistry and materials science. As a DARPA program manager, she initiated, led and managed the research and development of disruptive technology in navigation, manufacturing, optics, solar energy and body armor.

Tompkins began her technology career in the private sector, first with a small business and then as a senior scientist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), where she conducted and managed research projects in planetary mapping, geology and imaging spectroscopy. She was a NASA principal investigator and on the science team for the Moon Mineralogy Mapper on India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, and later, as an SAIC assistant vice president and line manager, developed and successfully executed a multiyear plan for quadrupling the research revenues of a science and technology center. 

Tompkins earned her master’s degree and PhD in geology from Brown University and holds a bachelor’s degree in geology and geophysics from Princeton University. She also served as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. 

“Dr. Tompkins’ breadth of experience managing science and technology and in-depth knowledge of several federal agencies that provide support for university research will be welcomed by Mines’ faculty as we continue to develop national reputation in innovative solutions to societal needs in earth, energy and environment,” said Wendy Harrison, chair of the faculty search committee and interim vice president for research and technology transfer. 

Tompkins said she envisions Mines as a place where both curiosity-driven and use-inspired research thrive, cross-disciplinary conversations about new ideas are routine and entrepreneurship is embedded into the fabric of the research community. 

“I’ve spent the majority of my career working with scientists and engineers and technologists across a wide variety of fields, from mathematics to materials science to autonomous systems. I also have lived in the world of research funding for a decade now—I think I have a good understanding of how people make their decisions on where to invest. I hope to use that experience to create new bridges between Mines researchers and opportunities for research funding and technology transition,” Tompkins said. 

Specific opportunities will likely take time to emerge but Tompkins said one of her first steps will be to meet with every faculty member at Mines. On a personal note, she’s also looking forward to coming back to “a world where geology is a big deal.”

“I have not been around that for at least the last decade,” Tompkins said. “It feels like coming home.”

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Mines receives $4M NSF grant to study artisanal gold mining

Colorado School of Mines - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 15:28

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."

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Wilcox cited as expert on negative emissions strategies

Colorado School of Mines - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 14:12

A 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.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

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Wilcox featured in The Economist

Colorado School of Mines - Mon, 11/20/2017 - 08:32

Jen Wilcox, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Colorado School of Mines, was recently interviewed by The Economist for an article on negative-emissions technology. The article, "Greenhouse gases must be scrubbed from the air," was featured on the cover of the Nov. 18 edition of the international news magazine.

From the story:

According to Jennifer Wilcox of the Colorado School of Mines, and her colleagues, the technology with the second-highest theoretical potential, after BECCS, is direct air capture (see chart 2). This uses CCS-like technology on the open air, rather than on exhaust gases. The problem is that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, while very high by historical standards, is very low by chemical-engineering ones: just 0.04%, as opposed to the 10% or more offered by power-plant chimneys and industrial processes such as cement-making.

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Pei featured in The Architect’s Newspaper

Colorado School of Mines - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 15:44

Shiling Pei, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, was recently interviewed by The Architect's Newspaper for a story on cross-laminated timber (CLT). Pei is the lead researcher on a National Science Foundation-funded project that this past summer put a two-story CLT structure through a battery of seismic tests on the world's largest shake table.

From the story:

Engineers specializing in cross-laminated timber (CLT) see its future less in boutique prototype towers, requiring case-by-case demonstrations for approval, than in a meat-and-potatoes mid-rise market. While, according to Colorado State University’s John van de Lindt, “some of those pioneering early CLT buildings are really almost like a partial R&D project in disguise,” he and colleagues predict that the field’s maturation depends on the incorporation of research-driven CLT standards into building codes.

“If you’re going to just do a two-story residential home, you have a perfect design code pathway to do it,” said Shiling Pei of the Colorado School of Mines, chief investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported study of seismic design methods. “But if you want to go taller, especially [if] you want to go above 85 feet— that is currently IBC [International Building Code] for Type IV, heavy timber—then you have to do something else…a lot of testing to try to convince the local building-code officials.” He views CLT beyond about 20 stories skeptically, on economic grounds: “In my projects, I say it’s tall wood; it’s not high-rise wood.”

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Liu recognized for paper on welding metallurgy

Colorado School of Mines - Fri, 11/17/2017 - 09:44

A Colorado School of Mines professor has been honored by the American Welding Society for a paper deemed the greatest contribution to the understanding of welding metallurgy published in the Welding Journal in 2016.

Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Professor Stephen Liu received the Warren F. Savage Memorial Award on Nov. 7 in Chicago, at AWS FABTECH, North America’s largest forming, fabricating, welding and finishing event. Liu’s paper, “Laser weldability of 21Cr-6Ni-9Mn stainless steel: Part II - Weldability diagrams,” appeared in the November 2016 issue of the journal’s research supplement.

Savage, also known as “Doc,” served on the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) for 40 years and was known as the “Father of Welding Metallurgy” in research circles, Liu said.  Savage died in 1988.

“Our program at Mines is actually patterned against his program,” Liu said.

Liu, who earned his PhD in metallurgical engineering from Mines, has taught at the university since 1987. He holds the American Bureau of Shipping Endowed Chair in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and is director of the Center for Welding, Joining and Coatings Research.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

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Mines Residence Life staff win major conference awards

Colorado School of Mines - Mon, 11/13/2017 - 11:37

Colorado School of Mines residence life staff took home multiple major awards from the Intermountain Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls Regional Leadership Conference, held Nov. 3-6 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Mines received the Program of the Year award for bringing members of the U.S Paralympic goalball team to campus to teach students how to play the game and then organizing a campus tournament. Goalball, designed for athletes with impaired vision, has teams competing to throw a ball with bells inside into their opponents’ goal.

Chase Schumacher, an engineering physics major and a second-year resident assistant in Weaver Towers, was named Student Staff Member of the Year.

Mary F. Elliott, Mines’ director of housing and residence life, was named Advisor of the Year.

Mines students were also honored for presenting two of the top 12 programs at the conference. Brandon Bakka, a chemical engineering student, was recognized for “How LGBTQ+ People Navigate the Jungle of College Campuses.” Schumacher and Keenan Urmann, a mechanical engineering student, were recognized for “Miracle Gro Fer(Tea)lizer, a weekly Tuesday Tea program in the residence halls.

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |
Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |

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Camp contributes to national report on CS enrollment surge

Colorado School of Mines - Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:12

A Colorado School of Mines professor served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee that recently released a report urging action to address the current surge in undergraduate computer science enrollments.

Tracy Camp, professor and head of the Computer Science Department, was one of 15 members on the national ad hoc committee tasked with examining the growing popularity of computer science courses at four-year institutions. 

According to the report, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information science across the U.S. has increased by 74 percent at not-for-profit institutions since 2009, versus a 16 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees overall. 

Institutions are struggling to keep up with the rising demand, with many reporting having too few faculty and instructors and insufficient classroom space and administrative support. More than half of new PhDs in computer science have taken jobs in the private sector in recent years, posing additional challenges to faculty recruitment, according to the report. 

The study was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. For more information, go to

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

Categories: Partner News

Serving the community through community solar

Colorado School of Mines - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 10:50

Colorado School of Mines students are helping make solar power more accessible to low-income Coloradans.

The Mines Energy Club recently volunteered with GRID Alternatives to help build two community solar arrays, one in Fort Collins and the other near Denver International Airport. The nation’s largest nonprofit solar installer, GRID works across the U.S. to increase access to renewable energy technology and job training among underserved communities.

“GRID Alternatives is a really cool organization,” said Evan Wong, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and vice president of Mines Energy. “It’s facilitating learning and spreading the word about solar while also helping low-income communities.” 

Colorado is among the leaders nationwide in the installation of community solar – also called solar gardens, the arrays allow multiple customers to buy into the power produced and receive a credit on their electric bills.

The new array in Fort Collins, the 2-megawatt Coyote Ridge Solar Farm, is the largest ever built by GRID – by a factor of 10. Volunteers installed the entire system in a matter of weeks between August and September, and it’s already generating power for the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.  

Mines volunteers drove up to Fort Collins to lend a hand on two of the Coyote Ridge build days. Tim Ohno, associate professor of physics and co-director of the Energy Minor Program, was among a group tasked with installing the arms that hold the solar panels and then attaching the solar panels themselves.
“It really took two people to lift the panels,” Ohno said. “The ones used for utilities are larger than the ones installed on rooftops in most cases.”

Closer to home, Mines students spent a day in October working on another 2-megawatt array, near Denver International Airport for the Denver Housing Authority

DHA will be the first housing authority in the country to develop, own and operate its own solar garden. Throughout construction, GRID will also provide training, certification and employment in the solar industry for affordable housing residents.

Wong, who is minoring in renewable energy, said volunteering with GRID Alternatives was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience with photovoltaics, to supplement the academic instruction he’s received on campus. 

“Although there's a bunch of advanced physics in the crystalline structure, installing solar panels isn’t really that hard,” Wong said. “The entire process probably took around five minutes at most for each solar panel.”

Ohno hopes the GRID Alternatives experience will also help motivate students and faculty to push for more solar on the Mines campus. 

A solar garden could be an efficient and cost-effective option at Mines, too, he said.

“Right now we’re really trying to accommodate the growth in students, but if groups are interested, I can imagine this might be a push in the not-too-distant future,” Ohno said.

Golden voters recently approved a ballot initiative to allow the city to move forward with a project to build a community solar garden at the Rooney Road Sports Complex. Almost half of all U.S. households and businesses are unable to host rooftop solar systems because they rent their spaces or lack suitable roof space, according to a 2015 National Renewable Energy Laboratory report

“It’s a direction that’s probably going to become more and more common,” Ohno said. “When you install panels on someone’s roof, whatever direction the home’s roof faces, that’s where it’s installed and that’s not always optimal. If you build a solar garden, the cost of solar even without subsidies is very comparable to traditional coal and natural gas power plants.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of GRID Alternatives

Emilie Rusch, Public Information Specialist, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3361 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

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Sowers article featured in Colorado Aerospace STEM Magazine

Colorado School of Mines - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 09:26

An article on the development of a cislunar space economy by Colorado School of Mines Professor of Practice George Sowers was recently featured in Colorado Aerospace STEM Magazine. Sowers, the former chief scientist at United Launch Alliance, joined Mines this year as part of the proposed graduate program in space resources. 

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Mental health awareness campaign featured on 9News

Colorado School of Mines - Thu, 11/09/2017 - 08:48

Alpha Phi Omega is focusing its national service week on mental health and suicide prevention this year. The Colorado School of Mines chapter is hosting a number of events and exhibits on campus this week and the awareness campaign was recently featured on 9News Denver.

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