Highlights in Giving
Preston Pipelines Delivery Arrives!
Preston Pipelines, Inc., has steadfastly shown support and commitment to furthering the development of the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department's students. Preston Pipelines, established in 1970, is one of Northern California's leading underground pipeline contractors. As exhibited by its commitment to our program, Preston Pipelines focuses on “building strong client relationships founded on service, integrity, and quality.” Earlier this year, Preston Pipelines came forward to support the BRAE department by offering the Quarterly Senior Project Sponsorship which we featured in our October BRAE eNewsletter.
Preston Pipelines came out to Cal Poly's Winter Career Fair this past January. In addition to recruiting students, Butch Lumby, Preston Pipelines' Human Resource Manager, Adam Wells, and Jordan Thomas (both Cal Poly Industrial Technology graduates) were featured as the keynote speakers at one of the Agricultural Engineering Society's (AES) meetings. At the meeting, Lumby spoke about the broad spectrum and variety of projects that Preston Pipelines completes, the type of equipment they use, and their corporate structure. Lumby discussed how they bring engineering graduates in to work straight away. Preston Pipelines hires many Cal Poly graduates and continues to be interested in Cal Poly students when recruiting. Jeff Carr, ASM Student and AES President, commented how “it is the generosity from companies like Preston Pipelines that allows the Agricultural Engineering Society to be named the large Club of the Year three out of four years in a row within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.
Last month, Preston Pipelines also delivered two Ford F-150 long bed trucks, both with V6 engines, for the BRAE department's use. These trucks are replacing the Nissan and will be available to both faculty and students for picking up supplies and moving trailers on campus. One of the trucks is designated for long-distance travel and will be available to faculty for academic events such as out-of-town business or recruiting. Paul Davis, BRAE Lab Technician, commented that “the impact of this donation is tremendous. We now have the capacity to haul larger items and tow trailers which we previously did not have the ability to do. The two trucks are also very aesthetically pleasing as they are well maintained and relatively new.”
The Cal Poly BRAE faculty and students thank Preston Pipelines' management team and field personnel for their continuous support and donation!
Pictured Above Right: Dr. Richard Cavaletto, Adam Wells, Jordan Thomas, Butch Lumby, and Dr. Mark Zohns
Pictured Above Left: Jordan Thomas and Adam Wells
Student Leaders: Female Engineers on the Rise
Thirty years ago, the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department would have contained few female students. Nationally, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the percentage of students who earned a bachelors degree in engineering that were female in 1975 was two percent (2%). Fortunately that number had risen to nineteen percent (19%) by 1998; however, females are still underrepresented in today's engineering programs.
The BRAE department is making increasing efforts towards diversification and increasing opportunities for females within the engineering fields. In this traditionally male dominated field, two shining female examples have emerged in the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering program. These two female engineering students have proved they can 'hang with the boys' and are able to impressively balance school, work, and extracurricular activities.
Claire Miller, BRAE Student, Defines Ambition
Originally from Redding, CA, Claire Miller seems like your normal college student who enjoys ultimate Frisbee, playing piano and guitar, and isn't in any rush to graduate. However, when you learn that after graduation she plans on getting her Professional Engineer license (PE), her doctorate, joining the Peace Corps, and starting her own business, you quickly realize she is an exceptionally motivated student.
A fifth-year BRAE major, Miller (pictured right) is also majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. During her first two years of college, she was a member of the Cal Poly Track Team where she participated in the shot put and discus events and earned the ninth spot in Cal Poly's All Time Top 10 Women's Shot Put in 2004. Miller spent her first three years at Cal Poly as a business major but found that the careers available to business graduates weren't what she desired. She soon realized that she wanted to be in a career where she could design, create and have a far-reaching impact… and thus she stumbled upon engineering.
At first glance, Miller thought the BRAE department was a major limited to mechanics and irrigation. However, as first impressions usually go, she soon found that the faculty and department are not only willing, but eager to help students in whatever their area of interest. While she was pleasantly surprised by the department she still has reservations about the name, “BioResource and Agricultural Engineering is too long; we should change the name to Everything Engineering, or Awesome, or Best Engineering- in my professional opinion.”
Excelling in academics is not Miller's only endeavor as she works approximately 30 hours a week and participates in various extracurricular activities. Miller works on campus as a student assistant to the Irrigation Training and Research Center (ITRC), as a transcriptionist for the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to help those students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and off campus as an SAT Preparation Instructor for Revolution Prep where she teaches SAT prep courses to local high school students. In addition, Miller serves as the Team Tech Co-Director Officer for Cal Poly's Society of Women Engineers, where she has been an executive officer the past two years. Currently she is the Treasurer for Cal Poly's Engineers Without Borders (EWB) where she also works on the Thailand project. Presently, Miller on behalf of EWB is working with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) to create a sustainable market in SLO to sell products made by the villagers in Thailand. Miller finds additional time to be a Youth Challenge Director for Student Community Services, serve as a washing design engineer for Cal Poly BioDiesel, participate in SIFE, and be a member of the Empower Poly Coalition.
In addition to contributing to Cal Poly, Miller has further increased her involvement in the local community and elsewhere in the United States. In March 2006, Miller joined the Katrina Relief efforts in New Orleans to help in the demolition process. She later returned in December 2007 to help begin reconstruction. Over the past three years, Miller has volunteered locally with FoodShare, Boys and Girls Club, and served as a Big Sister Mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. In addition, Miller volunteers at the Juvenile Services Center and for the Independent Living Program.
With so much involvement, how does she stay motivated, you ask? “I've really enjoyed my time at Cal Poly [and] the classes, club involvement, and friends are all great motivators.” With so many activities Miller plans on spending a couple more years at Cal Poly. “Well, it turns out that when you graduate (or drop out), people expect you to get a real job. That's a pretty good reason to stay in school,” Miller remarked. In the future, Miller would like to pursue a career in the area of alternative energies where she is particularly interested in biofuels created from waste biomass such as used vegetable oil and garbage. “My ultimate goal is to make these forms of alternative energy not only environmentally friendly, but also economically feasible.”
Miller's (pictured second from left) extracurricular involvements and academic excellence make her one of the shining stars of the BRAE Department. Miller advises future female students interested in engineering to explore their interest because “engineering is an expanding area, offering opportunities in a variety of areas and [on a more comical note] when you graduate, you're more intelligent and make more money than your friends!” She then jokingly remarks that “someday you could be in an eNewsletter too!”
As with all featured highlights, we asked Miller which BRAE professor she would prefer to be trapped on a desert island with and she responded, “Ummm… that's a hard one. I guess I would have to go with Dr. Zohns. He would design and create a machine to get us off the island within the hour. 100% guaranteed… and he has a beard like Tom Hanks in 'Castaway.'”
Leah Meeks, BRAE Student: Inspiration Fuels Motivation
Did you know that the United Nations reports that women in sub-Saharan African countries grow 80% of the crops and own less than 5% of the land? Well we didn't until Leah Meeks, BRAE student, informed us. Researching the impact of women in agriculture in third-world countries is just one of Meeks' academic interests. Originally from a four-generation ranch in Jerome, Idaho, Meeks comes from a family full of support and powerful women as inspiration. Meeks, a fifth year BRAE major with a minor in Women and Gender Studies, views her aunt, Dr. Lynn Langer Meeks (pictured right with Leah), as her greatest role model.
Meeks recalls that “it seems like a long time ago that we packed my pickup and drove the 1,000 miles to Cal Poly together. Lieutenant Lynn was always on top of her game both professionally and in her 'auntly duties'… [For example] when I was very sick at birth, Lynn flew to Idaho that day and has been a driving force in my life ever since. She died the fall of my fourth year at Cal Poly of pancreatic cancer and it is very weird to make any of my major future decisions without her input.”
Having her aunt as inspiration, Meeks strives to continually challenge herself to take on new things and not be satisfied with the present. She applies this mantra to academics, work, personal development, and all other walks of life. This is evident by Meeks' excellence in academics and extracurricular involvement. Working about 15 hours a week as the Special Events Coordinator for Cal Poly Student Community Services, Meeks organizes various days of service such as Make a Difference Day paired with United Way, WOW Days of Service, Cesar Chavez Day of Service, and the Holiday Gift Drive. In addition, Meeks assists Dr. Ben Burgoa, BRAE professor, a few hours a week with grading for his BRAE 340 class.
Since 2004, Meeks has been very involved with the Agricultural Engineering Society, where she served as Vice President last year and is currently the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers National Representative. Meeks also serves as the President of Agricultural Ambassadors, the Coordinator of the first California State Ag Ambassador Conference, a member of Student Community Services, a member of the Society of Women Engineers where she served as BRAE Major Chair, and as a member of Cal Poly Women's Awareness and Women's Center. In her five years of involvement with Cal Poly Student Community Services, Meeks has traveled twice to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina Relief. Meeks also participates in San Luis Obispo Women's Rugby Team where she is currently the team Treasurer and was last year's rookie of the year. Off campus, Meeks (pictured left with Claire Miller, far left) makes a considerable impression on the community by volunteering with FoodShare and with the Boys and Girls Club, and the United Way.
With all of her time dedicated to extracurricular activities and work, one would think Meeks may have trouble keeping up with her academics, but that is not the case. Meeks has made the Dean's List five separate quarters over her career at Cal Poly. In 2006 and 2007, Meeks won the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Student Engineer of the Year Award. Her most recent accomplishment was being honored as one of the five graduating female engineering students who received the Cal Poly Outstanding Women in Engineering Award in 2008.
It is interesting to note that Meeks began her college career as a Business Administration major but then decided she would rather do engineering. From taking other engineering courses at Cal Poly, Meeks soon discovered that she preferred the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering program. Meeks also noted that she feels the “BRAE department definitely has the best teachers, has a very low student-teacher ratio, and is the engineering program with the most ‘Learn by Doing' experience.”
So what BRAE Professor would Meeks prefer to be on a desert island with? “That's tough- it depends on the island. If I wanted to be productive, I'd take Dr. Zohns. If I wanted to make wine and have philosophical discussions, I'd take Dr. Kaminaka.”
With a world of opportunities ahead of her, Meeks (pictured far right) hopes to have a job that is constantly evolving and challenging. After graduation this spring, she hopes to live in a location where, on a whim, she can jump on a horse and work some cattle. “I was recently accepted into the Agricultural and Biological Engineering PhD program at the University of Florida [where I] will work on international irrigation projects, optimally incorporating Ag Engineering and Women's Studies.” After getting her PhD, Meeks plans on teaching as a professor in the ag engineering department at a university and getting her Civil PE license. She remarked, “It may sound nerdy, but I want to be a club advisor, like for Ag Ambassadors, while I profess my knowledge.”
Meeks notes that “statistics from the National Science Foundation show that the number of women enrolled in undergraduate engineering degrees has decreased the last three years. As an engineering professor, I would serve as a role model to female engineers and would encourage students (both male and female) to enter this great field.” As for what university Meeks would return to teach? “It sounds pretty crazy, but I would consider coming back to the BRAE department. I haven't decided where I want to teach, but definitely in the West. I miss the snow, but weather in SLO is not too bad.”
Meeks encourages prospective female students interested in engineering to “study what intrigues you! It might be hard or uncomfortable at times, but there are always supportive students, faculty and staff out there.”
Engineers and Social Responsibility
Andrew Moya, BRAE Student, and "Engineers Without Borders" Help Communities in Developing Nations
The BioResource and Agricultural Engineering program contains the perfect blend of engineering and agriculture to help fuel innovations within sustainability and ‘green' initiatives. Early on in his college career, Andrew Moya, a fourth-year BRAE student, discovered his passion for helping communities develop sustainable energy and water systems.
As a senior in high school, Moya knew that he wanted to be an engineer but was unsure as to what type. After perusing through the different engineering majors Cal Poly offers, he decided that BRAE would be most suitable for his goals and future career plans. Moya got involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB) his sophomore year of college after viewing a presentation about EWB's Thailand project. Cal Poly's student chapter of Engineers without Borders is a non-profit humanitarian organization that is committed to partnering with developing communities to improve their quality of life through implementation of environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects.
Currently, Moya is a member of the Nicaragua project where from 2006-2007 he was involved in the design and implementation of a water storage facility at a health clinic in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua . During the design phase he helped in the excavation plan, electrical system, storage tanks, and created CAD drawings. Following design completion in the summer of 2007, twelve students, including Moya, and the Nicaragua project advisor and his wife traveled to Nicaragua for the design implementation. The implementation trip lasted about 12 days, where Moya and the other students installed electrical wiring, laid down pipe, poured concrete slab, and “shoveled lots and lots of dirt,” explained Moya (pictured left). Currently, the Nicaragua group does not have a project it is working on but the group is planning on traveling to Nicaragua this spring break in search of one.
EWB is not strictly focused on international projects, as it has impacted Cal Poly in many ways. In the past two years there have been a few projects aimed at improving the sustainability of the campus: an erosion control project on Poly Canyon Road and implementation of a Solar Panel System on the red-brick dorm roofs.
So how does a BRAE student who is involved in numerous activities do it all? Moya recommends finding “a healthy balance between work, school, and extracurricular activities and stick with it.”
Interested in getting involved in a project? Visit Cal Poly's Engineering Without Borders Website!
Dr. Styles, ITRC Director, Addressed Issues Facing California's Water Supply at "Focus The Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America"
On January 3, 2008, Cal Poly participated in the largest teach-in in America 's history- Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America. The day-long teach-in featured presentations and panel discussions from a wide range of perspectives on climate change solutions including physics, biology, architecture, engineering, agriculture, business, economics, psychology and religious studies.
One of our own professors, Dr. Stuart Styles, Director of the Cal Poly Irrigation Training and Research Center, spoke during the Tech Solutions from Agriculture presentation. Joining him was Dr. David Headrick, a professor from the Horticulture and Crop Science Department, and Ryan Rich, a local organic farmer from Four Elements Farm. Dr. Styles addressed the impact that climate change will have on irrigated agriculture in the western United States. Dr. Styles also discussed the increasing levels of seawater within the delta, premature melting of snow-packs, the rise of sea level in San Francisco, and the possible solutions for protecting California's water such as increasing dam heights.
Available Downloads: Dr. Styles' PowerPoint Presentation