Schools and student groups present their latest work to Arizona state legislators
The marvels of engineering: Our world revolves around remarkable concepts and feats of design, many of which start in classrooms like the ones at Arizona State University.
During the 34th annual ASU Day at the Capitol, students from various ASU schools and colleges, including the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, showcased their work for legislators at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, across from the Arizona Capitol building. The event gives students, professors and lawmakers an opportunity to connect with each other about the work being done within their districts.
“Today’s exhibits represent just a few of the ways our students and faculty put to practice their creativity in designing solutions to real-world problems that impact the world around us,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Fulton Schools. “As a hub for engineering and technology innovation, we are working with partners in our community and throughout the state to leverage our place — to make research breakthroughs that will catalyze the tech ecosystem in the Phoenix metropolitan area, drive creation of future industries and improve the communities that we serve.”
One of those real-world solutions was created by the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, which brought a small-scale model to the event to demonstrate the effects of rainfall, runoff and the erosion process in Arizona. The tool is used by the Flood Control District of Maricopa County for public outreach to help people understand the dangers of desert floods.
“Our No. 1 thing is flood safety,” said Chandra Miller, flood warning program specialist at the Flood Control District of Maricopa County. “What is monsoon? Why is it an issue in Arizona? It’s really important for people to understand why it’s happening, and this makes it visually easier for someone to see.”
Software engineer Matthew Reed (left) listens as Shahnawaz Sinha, an assistant research professor in ASU's School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, explains the work his lab does using a photocatalytic reactor during the annual ASU Day at the Capitol on Tuesday. Faculty, staff and students interacted with lawmakers and stakeholders about what ASU is working on.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Arizona Sen. Heather Carter poses for a photo with Sparky during the Day at the Capitol at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Kenja Hassan, public affairs director for the Downtown Phoenix campus, and Robert Cox, senior director of community and municipal relations at ASU, pose with the Arizona Territorial Cup on Tuesday.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Blockchain research lab representative and engineering graduate student Manish Vishnoi presents his lab’s work to Thunderbird graduate students Ethan Naylor and Leaniva Tuala.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Tempe mayoral candidate Corey Woods laughs after a pushup competition with Sparky on Tuesday. Woods is an ASU alumnus, earning his master’s degree in educational policy in May 2018.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Public service program coordinator Emma Biscocho speaks about Next Generation Service Corps and community partnership programs during the Day at the Capitol on Tuesday.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
President Michael Crow presents researchers' work to Sen. Heather Carter during the annual ASU Day at the Capitol at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix on Tuesday.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Senate pages and ASU students strike a pose at the entrance to the annual event letting policymakers explore how the university interacts with the larger Arizona community.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Professor Rolf Halden (third from left) explains his research on wastewater treatment. His work includes fighting for a ban on antimicrobials in personal-care products, what sewage can tell us about public health and why we shouldn't be throwing contact lenses down the drain.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
(From left) School of Transborder Studies Assistant Professor Edward Vargas, Morrison Institute for Public Policy Director Andrea Whitsett and District 26 Rep. Athena Salman chat Tuesday during Day at the Capitol.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Michelle Loposky, assistant director of outreach and engagement for the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, speaks with visitors Tuesday.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Sparky competes with School for the Future of Innovation in Society graduate student Fritz Smith in a pushup competition Tuesday outside the Capitol.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
(From left) Warde Nichols, executive director for government and community engagement at ASU; District 6 Rep. Bob Thorpe and District 21 Rep. Kevin Payne chat during the Day at the Capitol.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Marc Geslani, director of Higher Education State Partnerships at the College Board, visits with graduate student Clint Stevens (left) and junior Terrell Brown to test his fruit and vegetable intake using a vegetable meter at the College of Health Solutions booth Tuesday.Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment is currently working on a larger-scale model for research purposes, which will be used to evaluate engineering designs.
At ASU’s Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics, students and researchers are using nature to come up with sustainable, biologically based solutions to challenges like dust mitigation. Researchers are using the jack bean, a nuisance plant primarily found in southeast Asia, to create a natural cement. The bean produces an enzyme that creates calcium carbonate cement. When mixed with soil and water, it bonds like glue. The center is working with three industry partners to test the water-based solution in an active landfill in Apache Junction.
It’s research like this that may lead to spinoff companies such as Aquavitas — a company that uses wastewater samples to monitor public health risks, including opioid consumption.
“We’re here to save lives,” said Adam Gushgari, CEO of Aquavitas and an ASU PhD graduate of environmental engineering. “We’re here to make lives better. We’re here to improve the quality.”
Gushgari and his professor, Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Environmental Health Engineering, were able to take their research and give it a broader application, offering full consultation services for municipalities and organizations.
Video by Jordan Currier and Dana Lewandowski/ASU
ASU President Michael Crow also was at the Capitol, talking with students about their work. Motivated by the Helios Rocketry exhibit, he emphasized the importance of engineering.
“How will we ever get to Star Trek? How will we ever build Starfleet Academy, unless we drive engineering faster, harder and larger in every way? That’s what we need to do at ASU,” he said.
Helios Rocketry is an ASU student-led organization that is building a 25-foot-tall, liquid-propelled rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 100 kilometers. The team will compete in the Base 11 Space Challenge in California. The deadline is late next year with a top prize of $1 million. No university team has ever taken on this challenge, but the team’s lead, Elvis Leon, realized the importance of the challenge, especially to further STEM fields.
“If ASU were to build a team and compete in the competition and win, it would be extremely amazing,” said Leon. “We’d be able to use those resources to leave behind something so that other students can have the same sort of experience and get hands-on experience to supplement their classroom education.”
There’s a growing interest in STEM fields, reflected by ASU’s fall enrollment in engineering, which totaled 23,903 — a significant increase from 16,596 in 2014. The bachelor’s degrees currently in high demand are computer science, electrical engineering and information technology. And recently, the school’s online master’s program in electrical engineering was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report.
ASU has been educating engineers for more than 60 years and now offers 25 undergraduate programs and 44 graduate programs in the six engineering schools. In 2019, engineering research expenditures topped $115 million with the bulk of the emphasis on energy, health, sustainability, education and security.
Top photo: Sparky poses for a photo with Arizona House Minority Leader and District 4 Rep. Charlene Fernandez during the annual ASU Day at the Capitol at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix on Tuesday. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now