By Micaela Myers
Engineering students in the University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science enjoy access to more than two dozen student organizations and societies that help them network, learn and grow.
“They are a way to create a tight-knit group of friends and potential future contacts,” says Luke Ruff of Castle Rock, Colo., president of the UW American Water Works Association/Water Environment Federation (AWWA/WEF) student chapter. “You can also use this involvement to help in your community and show leadership and communication skills, and it’s definitely a way to meet employers if that is your main focus. There are many activities that help you build friendships and encourage critical thinking.”
Ruff played Cowboys football as a free safety, earned his undergraduate degree in civil engineering and now is working on a master’s degree in environmental engineering. In 2013, he was named the male Mountain West Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Civil engineering junior Lisa Johnson of Riverton, Wyo., is president of the UW Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the UW American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) chapter. Joining SWE was a great way for her to meet engineering students outside of her major and to engage with fellow women engineers. “SWE is a good place for us to get together and talk,” she says.
“ASCE’s speakers are really technical, so it extends my engineering knowledge too,” Johnson adds.
Participation in student engineering societies and groups can help expand a student’s contacts and knowledge. Ruff has taken advantage of both via his group’s mixers and career fairs. “The mixers help raise awareness and invite critical thinking, and the professional mixers and career fair help students have a secondary path to meeting a potential employer,” he says. “I also gave a presentation at a national conference on produced water treatment—a great conference between AWWA and AMTA (American Membrane Technology Association).” At the AWWA/AMTA Conference Membrane Technology Conference, Ruff’s presentation, “Pervaporation Desalination of High Salinity Oil and Gas Produced Waters,” was named a Best Student Paper.
“We have speakers, and we do design challenges,” Johnson says of SWE. “Each spring we have a student-faculty dinner to allow the students to get to know the faculty better.”
ASCE members participate in a regional conference every year. “We make a concrete canoe and a steel bridge in a pre-design competition, and we take it there and compete,” Johnson says.
Engineering societies and organizations also are a great way to give back to the community. “With ASCE, we do a lot of outreach with kids trying to get them interested in engineering,” Johnson says. “We’ve been doing a lot of Exploring Engineering work, which involves going to junior highs and elementary schools. At Snowy Range Academy, we helped them build simple machines. For Beitel Elementary and Indian Paintbrush Elementary, we gave a talk about thermodynamics and building bridges. The last one we did for Exploring Engineering was at the junior high, and we gave a 90-minute presentation on Archimedes’ principle and [hosted] a lab where we had them explore how weight, volume and density are related.”
“Our group likes to raise awareness on the issues involving water rights and water treatment,” Ruff says, “especially with the pressing need for treatment of produced waters and the potential scarcity of water in the Mountain West area.”
In the summer of 2014 Johnson will intern with Baker Hughes as a field engineer, and she’s looking forward to the experience helping her to decide which direction she’ll take career wise.
“After graduation I will most likely be looking into work in the water treatment field or membrane technology,” Ruff says.
“UW is a great engineering school,” he adds. Ruff found the faculty and fellow students very supportive as he worked to balance the demands of being a Division 1 athlete and an engineering student. “I was able to do it because the people that surrounded me—professors that help you when you are lost, friends and classmates who stay up through the night with you to study, and groups like Tau Beta Pi who help with tutoring.”
Both Ruff and Johnson encourage engineering students to become involved in one or more of the many engineering societies and organizations at UW. “Overall, it makes me enjoy engineering more because I know more people who are in it, and I can benefit from it,” Johnson says.